The Cowboys were back in the finals in 2016, just falling short to the eventual Grand Final victors Cronulla. Now they return with a changed side unlike last season where they ran the same side for a large portion of the season.

Mercurial Johnathan Thurston will once again lead the Cowboys alongside his representative team mate Matt Scott. The pair have a great partnership in leading the team with both actions and efforts.

Last Season Placing: Finished in 4th place with a total of 34 points.

Summary:

The Cowboys began last season with a long streak of the same players who played in their Grand Final side. The balance of the side showed in the results and the media was ready to re-crown them by July. However, defending the title is probably harder than winning it, and after some key losses towards the end of the season, they faced both eventual Grand Final teams in the post season.

Key Players:

Johnathan Thurston: No discussion on the Cowboys in the last 12 seasons can start without this man. The main target of every opposition team, he yet still manages to weave his magic even when carrying the rest of his team. He led the NRL in try assists and it is his vision that sees try after try being scored. When combined with his conversions, his contribution to the ongoing success of the Cowboys is unreplaceable.

Michael Morgan: Morgs is the gritty mongrel that every team needs. He is not a dirty player, but his hard work and willingness to continue this work until the final whistle makes his contributions for the Cowboys the envy of every other team. Now in his second season playing the same position, he should be looking to increase his production.

Jason Taumalolo: The best player of 2016. The Cowboys rotate their pack better than anyone in the business, and in many games, it was Taumalolo’s second stint coming in with twenty to go that broke the back of so many times for the Cowboys. Coming off his Dally M winning year he may well price himself out of many teams’ available cap space as his value rises. It is scary how good he is for his age.

Story of 2017:

This season will be the first without James Tamou, and it will be interesting to see how this impacts on the team. With some young guns coming through, and with several experienced forwards remaining in place, I do not think he will be as big a loss as he is a gain for the Panthers.

The most exciting story for the Cowboys may well be who is waiting in the wings. Kalyn Ponga and Gideon Mosby-Gela have excited the crowds in the Nines, and with an injury to Antonio Winterstein, it will be interesting to see who is used and how hard it will be for him to get his spot back. The depth charts of talented youth for the Cowboys shows the planning going into the development of the future for the Cowboys. Keeping them secret is going to get harder as this year progresses.

Predictions:

Top Try Scorer: Jason Taumalolo

Top points scorer: Johnathan Thurston

Player of the Year: Johnathan Thurston