YOU have to feel sorry for the North Queensland Cowboys.
Their roster was rattled throughout the 2017 season with injury upon injury, none more painful than the one suffered by Jonathan Thurston which sidelined him for much of the season following Origin II.
Many have labelled the Cowboys a one man team, claiming they are nothing without their superstar half. I think it’s safe to say they have proven them wrong on many occasions.
While they’re nowhere near as potent, with the experienced Michael Morgan taking the reigns they’ve shown they can still roll with the best.
He has created 18 tries and scored 10 himself so far this season. Comparing that to Thurston in 2016, who created 25 tries and scored 2, shows Morgan is a fair replacement.
Since coming on board mid-season, Te Maire Martin has been an excellent spark to partner Morgan.
Let’s not forget the $10 million man Jason Taumalolo. He’s been as devastating as ever, averaging 19 runs, 203 metres and 5 tackle breaks per game.
Their outside backs aren’t too shabby, the rest of their forwards are reliable and have the potential to turn a game on its head (just look at how skilful John Asiata is for example) and their coach is highly rated.
No doubt the experienced Thurston will play a huge part in their surge towards the finals, working closely with the halves and inspiring the team as a whole pre-match and at halftime. Green would be crazy not to utilise him.
It’s hard to say the Cowboys will be a threat. Then again it’s hard to say they won’t be, given what I’ve talked about above.
I’ve been guilty of counting out the Cowboys this year without Thurston, only to be burned.
If the Dragons had of beaten the Bulldogs, we wouldn’t be having this conversation, so many would be forgiven for thinking they’re no chance.
They take on the reigning premiers, Cronulla, on Sunday at Allianz. And lets face it, the Sharks have hardly set the world on fire.
I see this as being a bit of a dire clash, and if the Cowboys were going to make any kind of a statement, knocking the Sharks out would be a great start.
They have a 13 win and 11 loss record in 2017, and are 5-5 over the past 10 matches – hardly a pillar of consistency.
But they do have their reasons. The injury toll has been monstrous, so they’ve done well to get to where they are.
They haven’t actually defeated the Shire boys since round 1, 2016, so it will be a test. But I think they can do it, if they’re switched on mentally. Past that, however, I don’t see them causing much grief this finals series.