One’s a future immortal and the other is one of the best props to ever lace on the boots. So, just how on earth did the North Queensland Cowboys make it to the 2017 NRL grand final without their two co-captains?
North Queensland have done remarkably well in adjusting to life without Johnathan Thurston and Matthew Scott – so much so, the club are now in a position to become a dynasty after the duo’s retirement at the end of next season – something considered to be a pipe dream just six months ago with the club considered a one-man-team by many.
In a season where Thurston played seven games and Scott just two, it was the emergence of key men Michael Morgan and Jason Taumalolo who became the new leaders of the Cowboys. Morgan who improved in leaps and bounds after the season ending injury to ‘JT’, transitioned from a running five-eighth – whom played more as an extra centre on the Cowboys right edge than a half – into one of the game’s leading organisers in the halfback role.
From his kicking game to his passing game, Morgan has mimicked Thurston to a tee and then some in 2017. With 81 tackle breaks, 24 try assists, 24 offloads, 18 line break assists, 12 line breaks, 11 tries, 3 40/20’s and 2 field goals – Morgan leads all halfbacks in attacking categories.
Last season Jason Taumalolo received Dally M player of the year honours. This season, his form has improved tenfold. Taumalolo stood up in a big way after the season ending injury to Matt Scott, averaging 62 minutes and a mammoth 209 metres a game, Taumalolo has turned himself into the most dangerous forward of the modern era.
Add to this the belief coach Paul Green has instilled into this side and the honest toilers such as Scott Bolton, Kane Linnett, Shaun Fensom, John Asiata and Gavin Cooper – the Cowboys are a side who did not fluke themselves into a grand final appearance this Sunday against the Melbourne Storm.
There is no side tougher in the competition than the North Queensland Cowboys. Every week the experts have doubted them and written them off only to be proven wrong by their resolve. There is so much belief within the side and we have every chance of seeing Gavin Cooper hold the trophy up on Sunday night.
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