Once North Queensland’s favourite son, Matt Bowen is ready to win over a new legion of fans at English champions Wigan.
Suddenly Matt Bowen can empathise with the man attempting to replace him as North Queensland Cowboys fullback, ex-Penrith No.1 Lachlan Coote.
Just as big shoes await Coote in the NRL, Bowen also has a hard act to follow at new club, English Super League champions Wigan Warriors.
Once North Queensland’s favourite son, Bowen must win over a new legion of fans as much-loved Wigan No.1 Sam Tomkins’ replacement.
England fullback Tomkins’ 23 tries were the catalyst for Wigan’s stellar 2013 which included the Super League and Challenge Cup double – not that Bowen needed to be reminded.
Attempting to fill the void left by New Zealand Warriors recruit Tomkins will be hard enough.
But Bowen – 32 in March – is also trying to hold off youngsters Ryan Hampshire and Lewis Tierney who have claims on the fullback jersey.
Wigan coach Shaun Wane has given Bowen first crack, after the veteran impressed on their recent pre-season training camp in Florida.
Wane named Bowen in a near full-strength squad for their final pre-season trial against St Helens on Saturday (AEDT).
Bowen will hope to impress in his Wigan debut before the Warriors officially launch their Super League title defence against Huddersfield the following week.
“I’ve big shoes to fill with Sam leaving but, saying that, I’m here to play my own game and see what happens after that,” Bowen told reporters in England.
“I came over with an open heart willing to learn.
“I got to know the boys on the Florida trip and how we want to play.
“It’s been great. I’ve fitted in well.
“(And) with the structure we’ve got I’m sure I’ll be crossing the white line a few times – fingers crossed.”
Thirteen years after making his NRL debut for North Queensland, Bowen said he felt like an excited rookie again.
“I can’t wait. I’m jumping out of my skin,” he said.
“It’s like my first-grade debut again only I’m a little older and in a different jersey.
“(And) the fans have been great since I’ve been here, stopping and wishing me well.
“Hopefully I won’t disappoint them.”