Despite the adversity faced in season 2017, the North Queensland Cowboys almost pulled off the impossible, coming agonisingly close to their second premiership win in the space of three seasons.
Record: 16 wins, 12 losses
Ladder Position: 8th (Runners-Up)
Player of the Year: Jason Taumalolo
In a season which saw co-captains Johnathan Thurston play just seven games and Matthew Scott just two; the North Queensland Cowboys did a remarkable job to qualify for their third NRL Grand Final appearance.
Michael Morgan alongside 2016 Dally M Medallist, Jason Taumalolo, were the shinning lights for the Cowboys this year. Morgan contributed 25 try assists, 11 tries and 3 40/20’s for the club this season whilst Taumalolo became the first forward in premiership history to run for more than 5000 metres.
With just one win from their last six regular season games, many considered Paul Green’s men lucky to qualify for the finals series. Going into week one of the finals, North Queensland were supposedly cannon fodder for the Cronulla Sharks. Instead; they would go on to defeat Cronulla before upsetting both the Parramatta Eels and Sydney Roosters to make the Grand Final.
Despite going down 34-6 at the hands of the Melbourne Storm, the Cowboys season was a successful one. With Johnathan Thurston and Matthew Scott returning from injury and Australian international Jordan McLean joining the club from the reigning premiers, the Cowboys will be all the better for season 2017 in 2018 and will be the team to beat.
Depth aplenty in 2018
Te Maire Martin, Ben Hampton or the returning Josh Chudleigh – who is the Cowboys utility next season? Shaun Fensom, John Asiata, Corey Jensen, Scott Bolton and Coen Hess – which three are on North Queensland’s bench come Round 1 and which two will be forced to play reserve grade?
Paul Green has some nice selection headaches on his hands.
Injury crisis fails to de-rail the new Green Machine
At one stage in the season, the Cowboys had 17 players unavailable through injury. Thanks to some great coaching from Paul Green, North Queensland were able to overcome the odds and become the most unlikeliest of teams to qualify for a grand final in recent memory.
Proving the critics wrong
Every week the Cowboys were written off by the ‘experts’. Every week the Cowboys were able to prove those ‘experts’ wrong. First it was Matt Scott’s season ending injury in Round 2 which would prevent the Cowboys from making the top 8. Next it was Johnathan Thurston’s season ender which was supposedly the final nail in the coffin.
Into the finals, no one tipped North Queensland to defeat Cronulla. They did. There was just no way they would beat Parramatta who came so close to defeating Melbourne a week before. The Cowboys outplayed them in leaps and bounds. The Roosters wouldn’t let the Cowboys come within a chance, as a more polished and composed football side than both the Sharks and Eels – Mitchell Pearce and Luke Keary would put the Cows to the sword – they didn’t. The Cowboys won convincingly to book themselves into their third grand final in 12 years.