Group 11 2019: Former NRL player Travis Waddell makes debut for Wellington Cowboys

RIDING ON IN: Former NRL player Travis Waddell made his debut for the Wellington Cowboys last weekend. Photo: NICK GUTHRIE
RIDING ON IN: Former NRL player Travis Waddell made his debut for the Wellington Cowboys last weekend. Photo: NICK GUTHRIE

Travis Waddell has only been around the Wellington Cowboys for a short time, but he's already felt it.

The renowned rugby league nursery has been a powerhouse in Group 11 throughout its history but the wait for a premiership is now at 26 years.

Waddell is one of a number of marquee signings who has linked with the Cowboys for this season, and the former NRL player is already learning just how passionate the Wellington playing group and fanbase is. 

"I'm still getting used to it," Waddell said of the Cowboys culture under co-coaches Justin Toomey-White and Aidan Ryan.

"But I do get the feeling from 'Justo' (Toomey-White). They love their footy.

"Everyone I've spoken to has wanted to talk about footy so I know in Wellington they're very passionate about winning a premiership."

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Chasing a Group 11 premiership is something Waddell never expected to be doing.

Even now, some of the former NRL's players friends and family are shocked to hear he's made the move to western NSW.

But Waddell, whose eight-year career at the top included stints at the Canberra Raiders, Newcastle Knights, and Brisbane Broncos, couldn't be happier with the decision.

While playing for the Cowboys, the Queenslander is living in Dubbo and is settling into a lifestyle which is far more relaxed than the one he, his partner, and two young daughters were used to in Brisbane.

"I never pictured myself coming here," he said.

"It's really weird how it turned out. People have been asking me why I've moved to Dubbo but this is a great change for me.

"My partner wanted to get away from life in Brisbane as well, it was too hectic."

After finishing up with the Broncos after the 2017 season, the former Indigenous All Stars hooker spent last year playing in the Queensland Intrust Cup with the the Souths Logan Magpies.

A return to northern Queensland, where he grew up, was on the cards after last season but he decided to go in the opposite direction.

He knew Wellington Cowboys president Darren Ah See and Chris Ah See through experiences at various rugby league knockouts.

Waddell also played under 20s with current Cowboys first grade co-coach Toomey-White and those connections made it easier for a switch to be confirmed.

"I've known Darren for a while and we chatted about it last year," he said.

"I had thought about going back home but I spoke to my partner and we decided on the change.

"No matter what, I wanted to play country footy."

He's been training with the Cowboys already for some time, but Waddell got his first real feel of what life will be like with his new side in Saturday's trial clash with Oberon.

After eight years in the NRL and one in the top competition in Queensland, Waddell admitted the experience of Saturday's trial was something completely new.

But he saw enough promise to feel positive about the season ahead.

"It was different compared to what I'm used to but it was good," he said.

"We've got a month to go now so we can really work on those combinations.

"Bush footy is not as structured as where I came from last season, but like I said, we've got a month to improve on things and we'll go from there."

Fellow former Queensland Intrust Cup Tristan Lumley also made his Cowboys debut in the trial match, as did fellow recruits Dave Dryden, Mason Williams, and Jack Kempston.

The new additions to the squad, and more potential signings on the way, has created a real buzz around the Cowboys heading into this season.

As well as joining in the chase for that elusive premiership, Waddell is eager to help develop the club's next generation.

Everyone I've spoken to has wanted to talk about footy.

Travis Waddell on linking with Wellington

Waddell is likely to play hooker or lock in 2019, but played halfback in the weekend's trial while teenager Wallace Bruce wore the number nine.

He's one of a number of younger players pushing for a first grade spot this season.

"I know they had a good season last year and there's a lot of young fellas coming through," Waddell said.

"Me and some of the other new fellas can help them, that's why we're here. We can give back."

The Cowboys made a positive start to their season on Saturday when coming from behind to beat Group 10 heavyweight Oberon in the trial match.

The Tigers side was led by new captain-coach and former NRL front-rower Josh Starling, while former Forbes Magpies star Farren Lamb was among his side's best on his Oberon debut.

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