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Payne proud of 200 NRL games with Cowboys

Durable hooker Aaron Payne has bucked the trend of players talking down career milestones by declaring how proud he'll be playing his 200th NRL game for North Queensland this weekend.
Payne proud of 200 NRL games with Cowboys
by NRL

By Wayne Heming

BRISBANE, April 4 AAP - Durable hooker Aaron Payne has bucked the trend of players talking down career milestones by declaring how proud he'll be playing his 200th NRL game for North Queensland this weekend.

The 29-year-old could not have wished for a better game to celebrate the feat than against the unbeaten Melbourne at Dairy Farmers Stadium.

Since making his debut against St George Illawarra in 2002, he will play his 200th game against the game's best hooker and arguably its most influential player, Cameron Smith.

Players have a tendency to play down milestones to avoid the pre-game pressure and to take the spotlight off them.

But Payne was doing neither on Wednesday when asked about his feelings before a game with such personal significance.

"Obviously it's very special," said Payne.

"I feel pretty excited. I feel honoured.

"It's obviously a pretty big milestone and something I've been thinking about for a while."

Payne, who's been part of the Cowboys' "spine" with Matty Bowen and Johnathan Thurston for many of those games, revealed he'd used the milestone as personal motivation at the start of the season.

"I made it a goal to get to and it's finally here so I'm pretty proud," he said.

As a young footballer, he didn't even know if he would play first grade let alone 200 games for the one club.

"I'm pretty proud of that. It means a lot to me because I love Townsville and I love North Queensland," he said.

Payne's greatest achievement, playing in the 2005 grand final, is also his biggest disappointment after losing to the Wests Tigers.

"This (200 games) will be up there with that highlight," he said.

He said playing Melbourne in such a big game would add spice to what was already a massive challenge.

"As soon as we beat Canberra last weekend, everyone's attention swung to playing the Storm," he said.

"This will be our test, and they're the benchmark of the competition."

Payne shaved his head on Wednesday as part of his commitment to the Sam Faust Foundation's "dare to grow your hair" campaign and will not have a haircut or a shave for the next three months.

"If people want to sponsor some of the players who are doing it and help raise some money for the Sam Faust Foundation, that would be great," he said.

Faust, who played 23 games for the Cowboys, died in May last year after a two-year battle with leukaemia.




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