North Queensland Cowboys
Position: NRL Premiers, 3rd ladder place
Record (W-L-D): 17-0-7
Top Pointscorer: Johnathan Thurston (184 points)
Top Tryscorer: Antonio Winterstein (15 tries)
Entering the 2015 season, the Cowboys were widely predicted to be strong contenders for the premiership and a top 4 ladder position. They had controversially fallen out of the finals three years in a row which raised questions of curses and conspiracies. Thurston won a premiership with Canterbury from the bench but was still looking to add one as the Cowboys leader despite winning 3 Dally-M medals. 2014 was arguably the best side they had fielded since the 2005 grand final team and with the only major change the team being the signing of unknown utility, Jake Granville, they were fully expected to make the finals again.
A 44-22 loss to the Broncos in week 3, their 3rd in a row, heaped another load of dirt onto their grave. The Cowboys from 2014 were nowhere to be seen. The forwards weren’t making much of an impact and the spine couldn’t find any spark. A new spine combination was tested in week 4 which included the use of Lachlan Coote after a year on the sideline and newbie Jake Granville. Week 4 the Cowboys managed to just pull out a win against the Storm and it was all up-hill from there. The boys from the north went on a streak of 12 straight wins before falling in round 16 to the Sharks. During that streak they managed to win many tight games with their ability to make late game comebacks. The most impressive comeback was against the Eels in round 13 when they managed to come away with a win after losing 30-6 at the 54th minute. The Cowboys scored 5 converted tries in 14 minutes. In the finals a successful year culminated in the team finding the required spark to go all the way. The North Queensland Cowboys won their first premiership in 20 years as an NRL club in one of the most impressive sporting victories of a generation.
The major struggle for the Cowboys was their ability to score tries without Thurston at the helm. Fortunately he did not miss many games. Thurston rushed ahead of the competition for his 4th Dally M medal and won convincingly in the end with no other player managing to have a consistently impressive season.
It’s hard to follow on from a premiership year but they won’t be struggling too much in 2016 assuming they don’t concede injuries to crucial players. They have been one of the least active clubs in the open market. They have not lost any players from their premiership winning team but have also not gained any major players. While they don’t have any major signings they do have a crop of impressive under 20’s players who could potentially break into the starting 17 in 2016. Coen Hess debuted in 2015 and is likely to play more in 2016. Gideon Mosby-Gela has been touted as a future star and was named in the 2015 under 20’s team of the year. With an under strength back line, Green could look to move him onto the wing with Feldt or Winterstein moving to centre. They also have plenty of depth in the spine with Kostjasyn and Thompson sticking around and U20’s guns Kyle Laybutt and Kalyn Ponga coming through the ranks.
In 2016 the Cowboys have a daunting prospect of winning back to back premierships which has not been achieved in the NRL era; however, with a team that is likely not to be hurt by player movements they will have a high chance of becoming the first to win two in a row.