Submitted by Peter Blucher.
It’s a long way from home, but Cairns boy Jack Bowes is developing a real fondness for Marvel Stadium.
In an early career of limited success, the 23-year-old Gold Coast Suns midfielder turned defender has had some of his best moments at the stadium with the roof.
His first goal against Carlton in 2017, a breakout game against the Western Bulldogs in 2019 and now arguably the best win of his 72-game career against the Richmond powerhouse last Thursday night.
It was a monumental night for the Suns. Under huge pressure after a string of poor performances they found themselves in the national spotlight against the 2017-19-20 premiers fighting to fend off suggestions of a fading sheen.
A prime time game on Thursday night, the new five-star timeslot each week. It doesn’t get much bigger for a young side. And the response from Bowes and his team could not have been much better.
The Suns’ 10-point win over the Tigers will go down as one of the club’s very best. And sit among the very special moments in a Bowes career that promises to be similarly special.
Switched to the backline this year by coach Stewart Dew to best use his coolness under pressure and his good ball use, Bowes was a key cog in a Suns defensive unit that stood up magnificently.
When Richmond kicked the first two goals of the final term to hit the front the collective viewing audience groaned. Here we go again, they said, noting a brave Gold Coast effort but expecting that they wouldn’t be able to hang on.
Wrong! Not only did the Suns hold Richmond scoreless in the last 15 minutes but they had the last five scoring shots and won in a fashion not often seen from the team in red and yellow.
Bowes finished with 21 possessions and three tackles as the Suns grabbed their first win over ex-captain Tom Lynch since his defection three years ago.
Was it Bowes’ best win? An 86-point home win over Hawthorn in his third game in 2017 was pretty special. Likewise a five-point Gabba win over Brisbane in 2018, a two-point home win over Carlton in 2019 in which he kicked the winning goal 90 seconds from time, and a 24-point MCG win over Collingwood last year. But given the circumstances it’s hard to beat.
Last year’s Covid season aside, when the fixture was turned upside down, it was Bowes’ first really big timeslot on the national stage. He’d played Friday night against Adelaide in Adelaide in Round 3 this year, but it was Easter and the second game of the day. Not quite the same.
Bowes now has a career record of 17 wins, one draw and 54 losses, including 9-1-20 at Metricon Stadium. He’s 1-1 at Cazaly’s in Cairns and 1-1 at the SCG, 1-2 at the MCG and 1-6 at the Gabba. And he’s 4-4 at Marvel. No wonder it’s a favorite place.
In his fifth season, Bowes has enhanced his reputation as a pin-up by for the Suns Academy in Cairns.
Born and raised in the North Queensland ‘capital’ and a product of St.Augustine’s College, he began his junior football with the Manunda Hawks before switching to the Cairns Saints and joining the Academy at 13.
He made his senior debut in Cairns at 16 in 2014, playing in a senior grand final loss in his first season, before a bold decision to move to the Gold Coast and enhance his draft prospects.
While finishing his schooling at All-Saints Anglican College at Merrimac, he played first with Surfers Paradise and later the Suns Reserves in the NEAFL before starring in a curtain-raiser at the MCG on AFL grand final day which featured some of the best 17-year-olds in the country.
By the end of the year he had been identified as a young man set to join an all-star group of All-Saints products that has included AFL stars Nick Riewoldt, Kurt Tippett and current Suns teammate
Lachie Weller, international cricketer Andrew Symonds, swimming star turned commentator Giaan Rooney, rugby star Ben Daley, netball ace Gretel Tippett and soccer prodigy Thomas Oar.
Even Cody Simpson, singer turned would-be swimmer who narrowly missed selection for the upcoming Tokyo Olympics, is a product of the school that proudly counts Bowes among its alumni.
In 2016 Bowes captained the Queensland Under18 side at the national carnival, where he won the Hunter Harrison Medal for the best player in division two, and then captained the Allies side at the division one carnival, where he won All-Australian selection.
It was an All-Australian side that included his Suns teammate Will Brodie, Brisbane’s Hugh McCluggage, Essendon’s Andrew McGrath, Bulldogs’ Tim English, GWS’ Tim Taranto, Richmond’s Jack Graham and Collingwood’s Callum Brown, among other future AFL stars.
It wasn’t a question of if he would be drafted but where in the pecking order.
When recruiting teams from across the country gathered in Sydney for the draft on 25 November 2016 McGrath went #1, Taranto #2, McCluggage #3 and Ben Ainsworth to the Gold Coast at #4.
Will Setterfield (now at Carlton) went to GWS at #5, Sam Petrevski-Seton to Carlton at #6, Jack Scrimshaw (now at Hawthorn) to Gold Coast at #7, Griffin Logue to Fremantle at #8 and Brodie to Gold Coast at #9.
The Suns were delighted because the more Bowes slid the lower the price they would pay. When the inevitable bid came on him from Sydney at #10 the Suns couldn’t match it quickly enough. It was a bargain before Sydney settled for Ollie Florent at #11 and North took Jy Simpkin at #12.
As important as it was, it was only the second most famous sporting selection in the Bowes family.
His great uncle Bill Bowes was a late selection in the English cricket team for their 1932-33 tour of Australia. He joined the travel party three days before they set sail and went on to be part of an infamous moment in Australian sporting history. An intriguing Bowes family tree.
A fast bowler originally from Yorkshire, Bill Bowes was part of the English attack for the Bodyline series against Australia in which the tourists adopted a relentless leg side theory.
It left batsmen battered and bruised, enraged the locals, and at one stage imperilled relations between the two countries.
And it produced one of the most stunned silences a packed MCG has ever seen, when Australia’s brightest young batting star, Don Bradman, was bowled for a first-ball duck by Bowes, who sent his stumps flying all over the place.
Bowes, who played 15 Tests for England, was later commissioned in the British Army as a gunnery officer. He served in North Africa until he was captured, along with over 30,000 other Allied troops, after the fall of Tobruk in June 1942.
He spent three years in Italian and German prisoner-of-war camps and lost 25kg. He continued playing for two seasons after the war but, weakened by his experiences, could only bowl at medium pace. In retirement he coached at Yorkshire and worked for The Yorkshire Post as a cricket writer, and died aged 79 in 1987 more than 10 years before the emerging Suns ace was born.
Jack Bowes learned of his famous great uncle when he was about 10, as he revealed to ‘The Age’ in his draft year. “I remember when I was in year four, I had to do an assignment on an inspirational person … that’s when Mum and Dad brought it up. So I got on Wikipedia to look it up and from there they told me the whole story about Bill. I was pretty amazed. It was pretty cool,” he said at the time.
Bowes’ grandparents, too, played a key role in his football development, moving from Cairns to the Gold Coast, where they had lived previously, to give him a home as he followed his football dream.
Bowes told a lovely story that revealed his grandfather, like his great uncle, wasn’t such a bad cricketer either.
“One day when I was 12, we were playing cricket in the backyard,” he told the Age. “I was playing cricket then, I’m 12, and John’s like 60-something and he’s got Parkinson’s. I’ve come in and let one go, and he’s just square-driven me for four … never seen the ball again. The neighbours were watching upstairs. They say they’ve never forgotten that moment.”
Just like Bowes will never forget his Round 16 win over Richmond.
In other Queensland highlights from last weekend:-
Port Adelaide’s Charlie Dixon had 14 possessions and an equal season-high four goals to help set up a 34-point win over Hawthorn at Marvel, and was rewarded with four votes in the AFL Coach’s Association Player of the Year Award.
Sydney’s Tom Hickey played against former club West Coast for the first time at the unlikely venue of Geelong and enjoyed the biggest win of his career – a 92-point slaughter. And he took the points clearly from Eagles’ ruck ace Nic Naitanui. Hickey, understudy Naitanui last year after carrying the Eagles’ ruck division in Naitanui’s absence in 2019, had 22 possessions (13 contested), 21 hit-outs, six clearances and 212m gained. Naitanui had 15 possessions (eight contested), 25 hit-outs, three clearances and just 10m gained. Hickey picked up three coach’s votes – the eighth time he has polled in a career-best season.
Jack Payne, a sixth Queenslander in a Lions side that beat Adelaide by 52 points, further enhanced his claim to a regular spot with another solid effort in his 10th game as Brisbane made a fly-in / fly-out trip to the Adelaide Oval.
Peter Blucher is a Consultant with Vivid Sport.