Sam Thaiday should have been a Cowboy.
The rugby league great spent his weekends playing for Townsville Brothers in the shadows of the North Queensland Cowboys' old stadium.
"I sat on the hill for many years watching the Cowboys go around back in the old days," Thaiday said.
"I really loved seeing the guys that came from out of Townsville to come and play the Cowboys. Win, lose, or draw, we were there supporting the Cowboys.
"Some of those guys that were at the Cowboys at that time popped out to our school, you get inspired to want to be like them and play on that field one day. I was very lucky and fortunate enough to be able to do that."
The only difference was Thaiday did so wearing the colours of the Cowboys' more successful big brother, the Brisbane Broncos.
But now he returns to Townsville as the hometown hero. Not as the rugby league player who notched up 304 NRL games, 34 Tests for Australia and 29 appearances for Queensland.
He does so as a boxer, facing former NRL star Willie Mason as part of the All Stars Rugby League fight night at the Townsville Entertainment and Convention Centre on February 12.
So it's only natural Thaiday plays up to the role of the hometown hero next month.
"There's an old country song called Should've Been A Cowboy. I might even have that as my walkout song," Thaiday said.
"I've got a whole heap of mates who still live in Townsville and both my parents still live in Townsville as well. Hopefully the hometown advantage plays in my favour.
"I could tell a few lies and say I've never lost a fight in Townsville, but I think my older brother could tell you a few different stories."
The one that matters most is yet to come. Fisticuffs were never the order of the day when the pair collided in rugby league, but the desire to get the better of each other was always strong.
Thaiday winds back to the 2006 preliminary final. Mad Monday beckoned for the Broncos, who trailed Mason's Canterbury Bulldogs 20-6 at the half-time break with a grand final berth on the line.
Mason was "walking down the tunnel yahooing, saying they were going to be in the grand final the following week".
"We came out in the second half and put a clinic on, and ended up beating them. We beat the Storm in the grand final that year," Thaiday said.
"Little things like that are always on my mind, I try to keep that in my head. Hopefully Willie is talking it up before this fight, and hopefully I can steal the victory off him again."
Because the competitive nature certainly doesn't die after 16 years spent playing rugby league at the elite level.
The 35-year-old admits he is "definitely packing the dacks" ahead of a boxing match, but he might have "a few screws loose" because part of him enjoys the pain and struggle of training.
Thaiday says the rugby league community never forgets. So he wants to be remembered as a winner. Though he has at times struggled to adapt to life after football, the desire to be the best he can be is still there.
"What it's done, to be honest, is it has given me a game day, it's given me something to train for," Thaiday said.
"That's probably been the hardest thing since finishing rugby league. What's your reason to be training?
"I know health and wellbeing is probably the biggest reason of all, but it can be easier to be soft on yourself when you're not training for a particular thing.
"It's where a lot of mental health issues come from. Your body is pumping full of endorphins all the time with the highs and lows of rugby league, and training and exercising every day.
"You can be soft on yourself when you're not playing rugby league anymore. You wake up in the morning and you're sore from not doing much at all. You can say 'I'm not doing anything today'. That is a struggle.
"Having this fight, and especially in February, which is a tough period to train through the end of the year, through Christmas and New Years, trying to get through all that before we fight in February has been really good for me mentally and physically.
"Hopefully I can set up some good habits to continue on throughout the rest of this year."