North Queensland Cowboys
Record (W-L-D): 15-11-0
Top Pointscorer: Jonathan Thurston 234
Top Tryscorer: Antonio Winterstein 15
According to some, the North Queensland Cowboys were robbed by the referees for a third year in a row in 2014, but if not for a slight Robert Lui knock-on, the Cowboys could be lining up in the 2014 Preliminary Final. Despite a courageous comeback, the Cowboys fell 31-30 to the Roosters in week 2 of the finals to end a successful year. They struggled to win away from home, and lost their first 8 road trips. At home, they were near-unbeatable, winning 10 from 11, including their week one finals win over the Broncos. Injuries to off-season recruits Lachlan Coote and Cameron King didn’t help, but the emergence of Michael Morgan was a real positive for the Cowboys.
The Cowboys went deep into the finals and had a great home record of 10 wins and only one loss. Michael Morgan made a name for himself in 2014 and Coote will have a fight on his hands to play first grade in 2015. They played the top 4 sides (Roosters, Sea Eagles, Panthers and Rabbitohs) 6 times in 2014 for 3 wins; they went down by a point twice and by 5 in the other game so they showed that they can match it with the best. They managed to pull in excess of 15,000 fans to 1300SMILES Stadium 5 times in 2014, something many other clubs could only dream about. On the wing, Antonio Winterstein had a productive season, scoring 15 tries, while Jason Taumololo had a break out season.
Injuries to key recruits King and Coote hurt the club, and their away record for much of the year prevented them from climbing into the top 4 by season’s end. Veteran centre Brent Tate managed just 12 games before being forced into retirement after another serious knee injury. They struggled during the middle of the year, with the loss of Thurston, Matt Scott and James Tamou to Origin duty and between rounds 11-18 they managed just two wins.
Ashton Sims is off to the European Super League and brother Tariq is heading south to the Knights, so they lose a fair bit of experience and aggression in the pack and the loss of Brent Tate to retirement leaves them with a big hole to fill at centre, although they did sign Roosters centre Tautau Moga mid-season. Jake Granville from the Broncos is a good signing at hooker, a position that has always plagued the club. They have also signed a couple of youngsters in Kelepi Tanginoa from the Eels and Tim Glasby from the Storm. They have an absolute superstar at half back in Jonathan Thurston, but even he can only carry the team so far. With more depth at hooker and fullback the Cowboys will again be amongst the top teams in 2015.