This time last year, Javid Bowen was working as an electrician and thought he was finished in the NRL.
But now he has sparked new life into his career at the Cowboys with the club announcing on Wednesday that Bowen has re-signed until the end of 2022.
After calling coach Todd Payten to ask for an opportunity, Bowen started on a train-and-trial deal and was elevated to the top squad despite undergoing surgery for a shoulder injury last December.
The 27-year-old centre has locked down a starting position for the past three weeks and will represent his culture with pride in the Indigenous Round clash with the Warriors at Townsville's QCB Stadium on Friday night.
Bowen, an under-20s star for North Queensland, played 36 first-grade games before departing the club after the 2019 season.
"If you asked me probably 12 months ago I'd say no," he said when asked if he thought he'd be back at Telstra Premiership level.
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"But I got another lifeline and I'm taking it with both hands. I've been doing what I need to, to get back in the team and keep playing."
Would Bowen have been satisfied if his NRL career, which began with a try on debut in 2016, ended a couple of years ago?
"Probably not, to be honest," he said.
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"Those early years, I was playing decent footy and enjoying it, but as a couple of years went on, [for] a few personal reasons, I just kind of lost a bit of love for the game. That bit of time off definitely helped."
Bowen, who hails from Hope Vale, returned to Cairns after leaving the Cowboys and was named captain of the Northern Pride in the Intrust Super Cup, but the COVID-19 pandemic meant they played one match before the competition was cancelled.
"I went back in the workforce and worked for a year [starting an electrical apprenticeship] back up there," he said.
"I didn't mind it actually. Eight-hour days - up early, home late. I enjoyed it. I've put it on hold for now, but it was something I enjoyed and wouldn't mind getting back into once I'm fully done here."
When Bowen heard Payten would be taking over as North Queensland coach in 2021, he picked up the phone.
The pair had a "decent relationship" from Payten's previous stint as a Cowboys assistant coach from 2015-18.
"He was very happy that I reached out to him," Bowen said.
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"He pretty much told me he sees a lot of potential in me and that if I worked hard he'd give me a crack."
Payten kept his word. And now, as Bowen re-establishes himself in the top grade, he isn't taking anything for granted, especially this weekend being Indigenous Round.
"It means a lot for myself and definitely for the club ... Very grateful to be playing in this round," Bowen said.