2015 NRL Preview: North Queensland Cowboys

Last season placing: 5th (Eliminated by Sydney Roosters in Semi-Final)

For Cowboys fans, 2014 ended with yet another controversial refereeing decision with a dubious Robert Lui knock on call denying Jonathan Thurston a match-winning try. They enter 2015 with a very formidable line up, headlined by Thurston and representative props Matt Scott and James Tamou. A break-out season by Michael Morgan will give coach Paul Green a welcome headache at the selection table and they have good depth at hooker. Lachlan Coote’s 2014 was ruined by injury and he didn’t play a single game so he will be hungry to perform. If they can improve their away record (they lost their first 8 away games in 2014) they will once again be contenders in 2015.

Key Players:It’s not all about Thurston, who needs much more support from his team mates to get the Cowboys into a Grand Final, at the least. Michael Morgan needs to back up a terrific 2014 with another good year, be it at half back or at fullback. Lachlan Coote needs to remain injury free and nail down a starting spot, but he has some work to do after missing the entire 2014 season. Cameron King is a promising young hooker but like Coote, injuries disrupted his 2014 campaign. He is a smart player and a handy goal kicker but needs to perform consistently in the Intrust Super Cup as he is behind both Rory Kostjasyn and Jake Granville. He could be a vital asset to Green if he can force his way into the NRL squad.

Drawbacks: There is pressure on Morgan after his 2014 season and their star-studded front row pairing of Scott and Tamou will be missing for a number of weeks around Origin time, as will Thurston. They have good depth at hooker, but none out of King, Kostjaysin or Granville are established NRL players and the loss of strike player Tariq Sims will leave a big hole in the team.

Story of 2015: At times during 2014, experienced prop Ben Hannant found himself plying his trade in the Intrust Super Cup, quite a step down for a player who has played 12 Origins for Queensland and 6 Tests for Australia, although he hasn’t tasted representative football since 2012.At 30, and with close to 192 games under his belt he could be a terrific buy for the Cowboys, providing great support for Tamou and Scott and a new change could be the best thing for him. Look for him to have a big season.

Ladder: Make the top 8
Top Pointscorer: Jonathan Thurston
Player of the Year: Ben Hannant

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