“When you looked across the dressing room and saw ‘Thumper’ there, you just immediately felt more comfortable.”
Those words, trumpeted by Queensland and Test legend Darren Lockyer, succinctly sum up FOG #155 Matt Scott, and the remarkable career of the greatest front-rower in the Cowboys’ history.
When Scott last month announced his retirement at season’s end, it was an apt time to honour a man who formed the backbone of the engine room for the Cowboys, Queensland and Australia for the past decade.
Barring injury in the final month, Scott will finish his NRL career with 271 top-grade games, which would eclipse Matt Bowen (270) as the Cowboys’ second most-capped player, behind only Johnathan Thurston (294).
Factor in 22 Tests for Australia and 22 Origin matches for the Maroons between 2006-16, and Scott will be remembered as one of the code’s toughest players, amassing more than 300 top-level games in rugby league’s most brutal position.
“He’s had an incredible career,” said Lockyer, who was captain of Queensland when Scott made his Origin debut in 2006.
“As a teammate, I was always in awe of Thumper’s toughness. The way he played, he epitomised the Queensland way.
“He was always there for his teammates, always the first bloke putting his hand up to make the tough run off the kick-off or our tryline.
“He put his body through a lot and had some tough injuries with his neck, so to soldier on for as long as he did is a tribute to Thumper’s character.”
Scott’s hometown of Ilfracombe, 1148km northwest of Brisbane, is so remote he had travel hours in search of a game as a child.
His late mum Dianne would pick up kids along the way in a mini-bus and drive hundreds of kilometres for matches in outback Queensland, demonstrating the work ethic that resided in her son as he charged through the rucks for the Cowboys.
Scott was the world’s best prop for several seasons, most notably in 2015 when he co-captained the Cowboys to their epic grand-final defeat of the Broncos, smashing North Queensland’s 20-year premiership drought.
But in the past two years, Scott has consistently played through the pain barrier with neck and shoulder injuries that would have stopped lesser men.
“I think I’ve squeezed every last drop out of my body over the last 16 years. I finally decided it’s time to give it up,” he said.
“The Cowboys welcomed me with open arms from day one. It’s no doubt the overweight, freckly, young country kid from Ilfracombe would’ve been quickly chewed up and spat out if I had signed anywhere else.
“It’s been a really life-changing and quite unbelievable experience considering where I came from.”
Aside from his NRL premiership, Scott rated playing alongside Queensland’s awesome foursome of Johnathan Thurston, Cameron Smith, Greg Inglis and Billy Slater among his career highlights.
Just turned 34, Scott loves rugby league so much he considered playing on next season, but accepts his body can’t keep up with his desire.
“What my body’s gone through the last couple of years with injuries, the writing was on the wall,” he said.
“I would have loved to play forever. I still have a great deal of passion for the game and the Cowboys.
“It takes a lot for me to not play games. To stop playing entirely is quite hard. I realise that I’ve been really blessed with the career that I’ve had.”
Cowboys director of football Peter Parr labelled Scott the greatest forward in the club’s history.
“There is absolutely no doubt that at the peak of his powers he was unrivalled as the best front-rower in the world,” Parr said.
Underlining Scott’s value, he was Queensland’s prop in eight consecutive series between 2009-16, wearing the No.8 jumper in a staggering 20 consecutive appearances.
While Scott will be lost to the Cowboys on the field next season, he hopes to remain with the club in a professional, off-field capacity.
“I’ve got some roles with the club,” he said. “It’s not going to be full-time stuff. I was always keen to help out in any capacity I could, so I haven’t really got a concrete role as such. But I’ll certainly be staying in touch.
“There’s a lot to reflect on, not only on what’s happened in the past but also what’s to come in the future.”