Northern Pride Hastings Deering Colts halfback Travis Cornthwaite never knew when his opportunity in the game might come.
The Weipa product – who started playing rugby league at the age of seven with the Central Cape Suns – moved to southeast Queensland when he was just 12 in the hope of increasing his exposure to the game and developing as a player.
As a boarding student at Ipswich Grammar where rugby union was the main sport, Cornthwaite continued playing rugby league with the North Ipswich Tigers and joined the Ipswich Jets for a season of Auswide Bank Mal Meninga Cup in 2021.
But when he graduated high school at the end of 2021, the now 19-year-old found himself without any options in work or footy, and decided to return home to Weipa.
And it was in returning home that Cornthwaite opened the door to his best opportunity yet.
“I was back in Weipa for the year last year,” he said.
“I was just playing mostly carnival footy. The season in Weipa is really short so I played that and a little bit of carnival footy.
“Then I played a carnival in Gordonvale… an Indigenous carnival, the Gordonvale All Blacks. And I must have played alright because I got asked by the Northern Pride if I wanted to have a go with their Colts side.
“I didn’t really see it coming. I just went there with an attitude to just play footy with my mates. A couple of mates I went to school with were in that side (Weipa Raiders).
“I thought it would be good to play footy with them again. I never thought anything would come out of it.”
In the blink of an eye, Cornthwaite was living in Cairns, first residing with Pride CEO Garreth Smith and his family, and now with project and wellbeing officer, Karl Adams.
Adams and Hostplus Cup coach Ty Williams saw a spark in Cornthwaite and believed the club needed to provide him the opportunity to prove himself in the Colts and beyond.
Cornthwaite said he has been enjoying learning from Williams and the Cup team.
“During the pre-season (Williams) asked me to come up for a few trainings and last week he asked me to train with him every Tuesday,” Cornthwaite said.
“I’ve been learning heaps already. He’s such a good coach, very smart, and the Cup boys have been really helpful.”
Pride CEO Smith said for him, bringing Cornthwaite to the club was not only about his promise on the field, but what he represented as part of the club’s footprint and who he was as a person.
“I’ve known Travis since he was a little kid in Weipa because that’s where I am from and there’s a number of those young players we’ve been watching and keeping an eye on,” Smith said.
“When we saw him at the All Blacks carnival, it was the first time we’ve seen him play league in our region.
“He got an award down at Gordonvale and it was pretty clear that he had something. Karl reached out to him first to see where he was at. He’d gone back to Weipa and thought he’d just play footy in Weipa.
“But we knew he was a decent kid character-wise, a decent human, and we were keen to give him a shot.
“I had a chat to him to say, ‘where are you at?’ and, he doesn’t actually say that much, but he’s quite humble and I don’t think he understands the talent he has.
“The sort of person we’re looking for here is a humble kid who will grab the opportunities and run with them.
“To not have played in many systems before and where he comes from, we’re seeing exceptional growth from him and it’s more about who he is, than what he’s putting on paddock.
“He’s just a good example of what we’re trying to do here… what we’re trying to achieve here is giving opportunities to those that are willing and those that fit into the culture of putting in effort, respecting and understanding our footprint.
“That’s what we’re about, our representation, and that’s what he is. He’s a representation of exactly what we are as a club.”
Cornthwaite, who said his dad was his greatest influence on his rugby league, said coming into pre-season was particularly difficult, having not played regular football during the past 12 months.
But now, five months into the Colts season, the hooker-turned-halfback is loving where he’s at. And with the opportunities he’s getting at Cup training, he hopes that one day he can play at that level too.
“It was hard at first because I didn’t do too much last year so it was a struggle getting back to normal fitness,” he said of pre-season.
“But all the local boys made me very welcome and I slotted right in with the group.
“Playing now, it feels so good. Just being able to play footy week in, week out at a good level, it’s the best thing.
“My goals this year are to just get a couple of wins with the Colts boys, try to get in the top eight on the ladder.
“The end goal is to try to play good footy with Colts and hopefully get into that Cup side eventually down the track.”
The Northern Pride are still looking for their first win in the Hastings Deering Colts season and will this Saturday play the Souths Logan Magpies from 4pm at Tully Showgrounds.
Main image: Travis Cornthwaite in Round 1. Photo: Jorja Brinums/QRL