They were a deadly trio on the field and Matt Bowen, Justin Hodges and Scott Prince have spoken about working together as an Indigenous coaching dream team.
The former Maroons teammates, who also played together for the Indigenous All Stars, have taken up of coaching roles since finishing their illustrious playing careers and have higher aspirations.
Hodges is an assistant with Redcliffe Dolphins in the QRL’s Intrust Super Cup, while Prince will coach the Valleys Diehards team in the women’s BHP Premiership and Bowen has taken the reins at Townsville’s Western Lions after a stint as the Blackhawks Under 18s mentor.
Bowen and Hodges will also join Laurie Daley’s coaching staff to help prepare the Indigenous team for next week’s Harvey Norman All Stars clash against the Maori at CQB Stadium after taking part in Friday night’s All Stars Fight Night in Townsville.
"I am pretty close to Princey and Hodgo, and we are all passionate about coaching," said Bowen, who is fighting former Penrith captain Craig Gower.
"We’d like to coach together, or do something like that, in the future - maybe coach an NRL team.
"Most definitely that is my goal. I love coaching and I am passionate about it. I am trying to learn as much as I can from other coaches who have been there and hopefully down the track there will be an opportunity."
Bowen developed an interest in coaching while playing for Wigan in 2014 and 2015, as he worked closely with the young backs rising through the ranks at the Super League club, like Joe Burgess and Oliver Gildart.
Match Highlights: Indigenous All Stars v NRL All Stars, 2010
After returning to North Queensland, the former Cowboys star began coaching his son, Matthew junior, before taking on the first-grade job with Centrals in the Townsville competition and guiding the Tigers to the 2018 premiership.
For the past two seasons, Bowen has coached the under-18 Blackhawks, a feeder team to the Cowboys in the Intrust Super Cup.
"I sort of got into coaching at Wigan when I went over there to play," Bowen said. "There were a lot of young guys coming through so I sort of helped coach the backs. I fell in love with it and wanted to give back.
"It is a huge honour to be part of the Indigenous All Stars coaching staff and to be able to learn from a guy like Laurie Daley."
Also on Daley’s coaching staff is Wests Tigers assistant Ron Griffiths, who is one of the few Indigenous coaches working in the Telstra Premiership.
It’s something Bowen, Hodges, Prince and others hope will change.
Thurston and Bowen light up Skilled Park
"We are trying to get more Indigenous coaches out there," Bowen said. "It is very important.
"Being involved with the All Stars is a great opportunity for me and Hodgo to put our foot forward and hopefully get a gig somewhere."
Having been in camp for the inaugural All Stars game in 2010, and a member of the Indigenous team in 2011 and 2012, Bowen understands the importance of the concept and he has seen how the culture has developed over the past decade.
The first Indigenous War Cry at the All Stars
In the formative years, the value of the All Stars game was questioned on an almost annual basis but it is now firmly entrenched in the NRL calendar, particularly since the introduction of the Maori team in 2019.
"To be a part of that first game and to still be involved as part of the coaching staff is an honour and it is only getting bigger and better," Bowen said.
"For Indigenous players, it is now No.1 among their priorities that they want to play in this game and to be able to speak to them about those early times is something special that I am proud of."
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