'Mango' back in season
A 10-time Queensland representative coming out of retirement to play in the Intrust Super Cup for the first time three days before Origin I should have been big news.
But we didn't find out for certain until an hour before kick-off last Sunday (May 29) that North Queensland Cowboys legend Matt Bowen would be turning out for the ladder-leading Townsville Blackhawks against Easts.
Whispers started emerging on social media as early as Thursday that the great 'Mango' might be taking the field against Easts Tigers at Langlands Park yet it wasn't until 60 minutes prior to the game that fans were given the green light to turn out to see Bowen play.
Those who did were treated to an extraordinary rugby league skill-set rarely seen one rung below the elite level but many more should have been made aware that greatness would be making a rare appearance.
Yes, a yard of pace may have gone the way of the curls on the top of his head but Bowen remains one of the most beloved players in Queensland rugby league and I can't help think there would be plenty of footy fans in Brisbane ruing a missed chance to watch him in action again, especially in the week of Origin I.
Fans in Townsville will get their opportunity to see Bowen play again on Sunday at Jack Manski Oval with Blackhawks coach Kristian Woolf confirming that Bowen will play and that he is now signed for the remainder of the season.
It goes some way to offsetting the recent retirement of Neville Costigan who played such a crucial role in the establishment of the Blackhawks but Woolf said that it was Bowen's wish that his comeback took place with as little fanfare as possible.
"It wasn't a matter of keeping it a secret, he just wanted to keep it very low key," said Woolf, who said that Bowen's registration with the QRL was not completed until Friday afternoon last week.
"He wasn't wanting to take away from the rest of the group or have to walk into a media huddle before his first game in eight months so we all thought that was probably best for his first game back."
Maroon legend Matt Bowen, right, back in action on a footy field with the Blackhawks.
Woolf's friendship with Bowen stretches way back to his days as a school teacher in Townsville and continued during his time on the coaching staff at the Cowboys. A couple of months ago during one of their regular coffee catch-ups Woolf suggested he could use some help with his young outside backs.
Bowen slotted in to help out with some of the drills for the back five and the competitive juices began to flow, conversations beginning as to whether he might pull on the boots again.
The 34-year-old veteran of 270 games in the NRL was brought into the team when Jahrome Hughes earned a call-up to the Cowboys' first-grade team and showed sublime touches of class that led directly to three Blackhawks tries in Townsville's 29-20 loss to the Tigers.
Plenty of high-profile superstars have their grounding in the Intrust Super Cup but few return at the tail-end of their careers and Woolf knows that the competition as a whole will benefit from Bowen's presence as well as his team.
"It's obviously an outstanding signing for us and for the competition as a whole," Woolf said.
"The fact that a bloke of his calibre and experience and with what he has already achieved in the game wants to come back and give back at this level I would hope that this is what this level is about and we get more and more of that.
"The biggest plus of him coming back is what he's going to give the other players in our group and what they're going to take away from him.
"He's got things you can't coach with his skills and his vision and his instinct for the game.
"I hope people do want to come down and see what he still has to offer."
If you tell them he's playing, I've got no doubt whatsoever that they will.
A former editor of Big League, Tony Webeck is the Chief Queensland correspondent for NRL.com.