RAY TO PUT THE BOOTS AWAY
INJURIES have finally caught up with popular Cowboys player Ray Thompson who will retire after this season.
Thompson ( pictured with daughter Ivy Rae, 2) played 111 games for the Cowboys after making his debut in 2009.
However, Thompson still has unfinished business on the football field and wants to play for PNG at this year’s World Cup.
TO SEE THIS CLUB CHANGE INTO WHAT IT IS NOW, I’D LIKE TO THINK I’VE PLAYED A PART IN THAT.
RAY Thompson may be hanging up the boots, but the fiercely loyal North Queenslander will always be a Cowboy.
Thompson yesterday announced his retirement from the NRL at the end of the season, with persistent knee problems playing a decisive role in his decision.
That, and his desire to be an active father for his young family.
The former Townsville Centrals junior fronted media with wife Sabrina Galliozzi and daughter Ivy Rae at Cowboys headquarters, where Thompson first began his Cowboys career with a solitary game for the Young Guns in 2007.
He was a member of the club’s inaugural under- 20s team, becoming a star halfback, and in 2009 Thompson made his NRL debut off the bench against the Sydney Roosters at Allianz Stadium.
From there we went on to play 111 first- grade games, represent Papua New Guinea at the 2013 Rugby League World Cup and play for the Indigenous All Stars.
“It’s been a dream come true to represent this club, this region and everything this club stands for,” Thompson said.
“To see the club grow, particularly in the last few years since ‘ Greeny’ ( Cowboys coach Paul Green) has been along, it’s been a privilege to be a part of it.
“To see this club change into what it is now, I’d like to think I’ve played a part in that.
“I’m proud I get to leave this club in the position it is now.”
Thompson said he had little idea
what his future had in store when he made his first steps into the NRL.
“To play one NRL game was a dream come true let alone 100,” he said. “It’s something I’ll remember forever.”
Thompson said revealing the news to teammates was among the most difficult moments of his career.
“I’ve been through a lot with those guys and although the squad does change from year to year there’s that core group of guys like ‘ Johnno’ and ‘ Coops’,” he said.
“You feel like you’re letting them down and you don’t want it to be like that.”
Thompson revealed he first contemplated retirement during preseason training.
“Pre- season was probably the first discussion I had with my wife ... pre- season is always tough, but it was a different sort of pain and I knew it wasn’t right,” he said.
“I thought I might have a bit of a battle this year and after the Parramatta game I told Greeny – he was probably the first person at this club I told – and my wife knew obviously.
“I knew early on, but I just had to make sure it was the right decision.
“But now I know I’ve made the right decision for the right reasons.
“My daughter is going to play soccer, touch and all that, and I’d like to be an active father.”
Thompson will work alongside club legend Matty Bowen in the Cowboys community department as an engagement and programs officer from November, but Thompson said his football career was not over yet.
He has signalled his intention to play for PNG at this year’s World Cup, and wants to return to return to full fitness as the Cowboys battle through injury.
Green, who first coached Thomp- son as a 14- year- old at the Queensland Academy of Sport, said Thompson’s service to the Cowboys on and off the field had been immense.
“He’s played his heart out, he’s tough, gives everything and will do anything for the team,” he said.
“They’re the type of guys who build a strong club and a really strong culture.
“I’m really thankful that I was lucky enough to coach him.”
Cowboys football general manager Peter Parr said Thompson was the prototype Cowboys’ player.
“Earlier in the year Paul Green said Ray was ‘ as tough as a two- dollar steak’ after he played against the Knights,” he said.
“This club is a better place for Ray’s time here.”
FOND FAREWELL: Retiring Cowboy Ray Thompson with wife Sabrina and daughter Ivy, 2 ( main), Thompson playing under- 20s in 2009 ( below left) and the utility takes on Newcastle earlier this season ( right).