Adrian Vowles is one of many who remember the Seagulls’ time in the premier Australian competition as one of the fondest times in their career – when mateship and a sense of that young players’ careers were forming outweighed on-field results.
In his second season of first grade, Vowles became the first player to come through the Seagulls’ ranks from local under-19s, under-21s, reserve grades and first grade to become a State of Origin player.
He played just the one match for Queensland, game two of the 1994 series under his former club coach Wally Lewis who was Maroons’ mentor, before moving to Townsville to be an inaugural North Queensland Cowboy.
Vowles will be one of many of that time – when Tweed Heads was the base for ‘Winfield Cup’ teams from 1988-95 – to get together and reminisce at ‘Old Boys Day’ at Piggabeen Sports Complex on Sunday, July 28 when the Seagulls take on Mackay Cutters.
After starting out as the privately owned Giants in 1988, the then thriving Seagulls leagues club took the licence from 1990-95 before surrendering control because of financial constraints, and the Gold Coast-based national team moved to Carrara under the banner of the Chargers.
The country kid who came to the Gold Coast from Charleville to start a cabinet-making apprenticeship straight out of school, still remembers training with Southport before his mother called her friend, Seagulls boss Vince Hage, to see if her son could get a run at Tweed Heads in their under-19s, under esteemed coach Tom Searle.
Vowles quickly moved through the 21s to reserve grade at age 18, under the coaching of Graham Eadie, then debuting in first grade in 1993 and winning the club’s player of the year award in a line-up that included Kevin Campion, Jamie Goddard, Jason Hetherington, Terry Cook and Scott Sattler who also went on to represent Queensland, and internationals Dale Shearer and Brent Todd.
“I still remember coming to Seagulls in 1989 and getting a polo shirt and thinking ‘how good is this’; we didn’t get that in the bush,” he laughed.
“In 1990 the 19s played Steve Rogers’ Group 18 rep side and their five-eighth didn’t turn up and they asked if they could have one of our players.
“I was reserve so Tommy sent me across. I was fortunate to score a couple of tries and set up a few more and two weeks later I signed my first contract with the Seagulls.
“We had a lot of good players then who kicked on pretty well elsewhere. And even though we didn’t have much success we were really close as a playing group and a lot of us look back on it as a great time in our lives.
“At one time there were 14 of us living at the Isle of Palms resort at Elanora, so we spent a lot of time together but trained hard and learned how to play football at a senior level.
“I’m really looking forward to catching up with some of them at old boys day.”
The Seagulls won just one match and were wooden spooners in 1993 but in Vowles’ second season they won five, including upsets against eventual premiers Canberra and defending premiers and finalists Brisbane – both at Seagulls Stadium next to the leagues club (which was turned into a residential development within three years). They are treasured memories.
Only one player was subsequently selected from the Seagulls to State of Origin arena, Ben Ikin in 1995. Like Vowles, he’d moved on by the next season, heading to North Sydney.
Vowles moved to England after two seasons with the Cowboys, staying for nine years and winning the Man of Steel award – Super League’s version of the Dally M Medal in 1999 while at Castleford. He played against the Seagulls for the Queensland Cup – for Toowoomba in 2003 and Burleigh Bears in 2004, later becoming the Bears’ CEO.
After two seasons coaching the Queensland women’s team, he is the current coach of the Fijian women’s team that boasted Seagulls players CJ Sims and Teaghan Hartigan and beat the PNG side last month.
After living for many years on the Gold Coast, he has moved to Victoria Point in Brisbane and works for a commercial cleaning company.
GOLD COAST SEAGULLS’ ORIGIN REPRESENTATIVES
(all Queensland players)
1995 – Ben Ikin
1994 – Adrian Vowles
1993 – Steve Jackson, Dale Shearer
1992 – Steve Jackson, Dale Shearer, Mike McLean
1991 – Wally Lewis
1990 – None
NOTE: Gold Coast team was called the Giants in 1988-89 and the Chargers 1995-98.