Written by Oliver Kellner-Dunk
Photo by Zak Simmonds
In 2019, promising young forward Griffin Neame was signed by the North Queensland Cowboys through the club’s New Zealand academy.
This meant that the 19-year-old had to move away from his hometown of Greymouth in New Zealand and relocate to Townsville, leaving many loved ones behind to play for the Townsville Blackhawks in the Under 18s and 20s competitions.
At first, Neame found it hard to cope with the move; however, focusing on football helped.
“The move to Australia was very tough, I struggled with homesickness and didn’t want to be here at first but my family and friends helped me a lot to get through it,” Neame told Everything Rugby League.
“Once the season started it was much easier because you’re too busy thinking about the game on the weekend. My season with the Under 18’s was alright, we had a good side but it took us too long to click as a team and we just missed out on playing finals. Under 20s was another step up but I enjoyed it. We had a great side and we played some good footy. We ended up minor premiers but lost in the semi-final.”
Neame’s sacrifice and dedication to his craft were rewarded at season’s end with a call up to the Junior Kiwis squad, where he would start at prop in a losing effort against the Australian Schoolboys.
The defeat would not dampen Neame’s spirits as he is forever grateful for the experience and is proud to have represented his country.
“When I found out about Junior Kiwis I was so excited it was a goal of mine. It was a huge honour and an amazing experience, especially during the National Anthem. Something I’ll cherish for a long time.”
North Queensland have recently revealed that Neame was one of four players being upgraded to the club’s top 30 for the 2021 NRL season, bringing the Greymouth native ever closer to his NRL dream.
“Joining the NRL squad was another big goal of mine and I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity when I was younger I used to dream about this.”
A downside to joining an NRL club’s top 30 is adjusting to the rigours of a first-grade preseason, a challenging yet exciting undertaking for Neame.
“Preseason has been very tough but I’m also enjoying it as well, and can’t wait for the season to start!”
Earning promotion to your club’s top 30 generally means an NRL debut is not too far away, meaning that it’s now time for Neame to put in the hard yards both in training and on the field.
“A debut will be something I’ll be working towards by playing good consistent footy with the Blackhawks and if it comes along I’ll grab it with both hands!”
Make sure you keep an eye on Griffin Neame when watching the Townsville Blackhawks in 2021 as he works towards a Cowboys debut.