North Queensland Cowboys Stats
2013 Record: 12 wins from 24 premiership games (8th placed)
5-year record: 57 wins from 120 premiership games (48% win record)
Arrivals: Lachlan Coote, Cameron King, Hezron Murgha, Matthew Wright
Departures: Matt Bowen, Dallas Johnson, Ashley Graham, Jayden Hodges, Felise Kaufusi, Chris Grevsmuhl, Kalifa Faifai Loa, Scott Moore
Coach: Paul Green
Fixtures to start and end 2014
First five fixtures: Raiders (H), Broncos (A), Warriors (H), Titans (A), Knights (H)
Final five fixtures: Tigers (H), Panthers (A), Rabbitohs (A), Sharks (H), Sea Eagles (H)
North Queensland fans will be hoping less drama and better on-field performances in their quest for the 2014 National Rugby League premiership.
2013 was a year highlighted by a poor first half of the season resulting in the management’s decision to replace Neil Henry, and an amazing winning streak heading into the finals, only to bow out controversially to Cronulla. Henry can be considered very unlucky, with the Titans the likely benefactor if current coach John Cartwright can’t get the on-field results.
The Cowboys have taken a gamble with first time NRL coach Paul Green to take the reins at Townsville. Green returns to the club after playing for the club in 1999-2000. Recently he’s spent time coaching Queensland Cup side Wynnum-Manly before taking the Sydney Roosters Toyota Cup side to last year’s finals series. He’ll be hoping he can follow in the footsteps of Michael Maguire at South Sydney, and Trent Robinson with the Roosters in being successful rookie coaches over the last few years.
Green has all the ingredients to get the franchise into the finals series. Led by 2013 Golden Boot winner and world best half Johnathan Thurston. Thurston knocked back multiple offers to play elsewhere to re-sign with the club until the end of 2017. No other player in the league can dominate a game whether it’s through his long or short pass game, or precise kicking game that sustains pressure on the opposing team. Watch for his combination with new recruit Lachlan Coote. Coote good positioning in attack will be valuable feeding off Thurston’s short pass game near the try line.
North Queensland’s forward pack is solid with the international quality of Matt Scott up front alongside James Tamou. Tariq Sims will be hoping for an injury free season after spending a lot of time on the sidelines the last couple of years. Sims could possibly represent New South Wales this Origin series. There’s flexibility at hooker with Rory Kostjaysn or ex-Dragons hooker Cameron King likely to play at nine. Then you have Ray Thompson. Thompson played some outstanding footy out of hooker in the Cowboy’s run to last year’s finals series. You would expect him to partner Thurston in the halves.
The Cowboys have gone light with arrivals. Matthew Wright recently signed with the club after a frustrating season playing second-tier footy with Cronulla. He joins Coote and King in making the trip from Sydney to the north. For Cowboys fans it will be hard to head to 1300 Smiles Stadium and not see Matt Bowen, Ash Graham or Dallas Johnson in action.
Could this year be a hit or miss for the Cowboys? If the players under Green come out with the right attitude and willingness to compete, they are on their way to being a leading contender in this years premiership. A lot of the season again will hang on Thurston’s form and staying injury free, as it usually does with the Cowboys. They won’t be afforded the luxury of only winning six in the first twenty rounds before winning their last six regular games to sneak into the finals. Their run home with South Sydney, the Sharks, and Manly is tough if they face the same situation this time around. I expect the Cowboys to be playing in September with fans hoping they can get some luck in the finals series after back-to-back years filled with ref blunders.