Former CQ league players sign 2019 NRL contracts
RUGBY LEAGUE: Two Emerald football players have just brought the Central Highlands to the national stage.
Daniel Russell, 22, and Andrew Davey, 27, have just signed NRL contracts for next season for the North Queensland Cowboys and Paramatta Eels, respectively.
Former Emerald Cowboys president, James Verzeletti, said despite years of the men's huge talent being overlooked, he never gave up on their potential to achieve great things.
"Never give up on a player,” Verzeletti said.
"Andrew played for Emerald for six long seasons and never made a rep side, but when he got into Mackay Cutters (where he played for two seasons), he was made captain after just one season.
"He then went to Blackhawks and the Eels picked him up from there.
"Now he's down there doing the pre-season.”
Verzeletti said the talented second rower never gave up on his dreams of making his long overdue NRL debut, and has now left his carpentry business behind to pursue his passion.
"I thought he would have been picked up before that. He should have been,” Verzeletti said.
"When I took a team to Townsville for the Blackhawks trials, they wanted him straight up. They're a big time Intrust Super Cup club.
"I see a player for what they're worth and I see it in these two boys.
"There's players at clubs who week in and week out perform, so this is a good wake-up call to other coaches and presidents.”
Russell, a centre position who also has a trade in boiler making, played juniors for Emerald and proved himself a natural talent at a young age.
"He went away to boarding school and was picked up by the Broncos U20s,” Verzeletti said.
"Then he played for Souths Logan Magpies and now he's in North Queensland doing pre-season training.
"Dan earned himself an international jersey for his father Mark's place of birth, the Papua New Guinea Kumuls.”
Verzeletti said there are currently "six or seven U20s players” from the Highlands going into Intrust clubs around the region.
"I'm just so proud to have followed and been apart of their footy careers from a young age, especially Andrew as he played A grade for me and helped me so much with developing our club and working with our juniors,” he said.
"It's getting there and Dan and Andrew have paved the way for our clubs.
"We are on the radar now for Intrust and hopefully if they perform and get their NRL jerseys, it'll really get things happening for our region, having two of our boys in the NRL.
"These boys are an inspiration to any players that if you work hard enough and want it bad enough, you can get a chance at the big stage.”