After finishing runners-up in the 2017 NRL Grand Final, the North Queensland Cowboy’s couldn’t send out Johnathan Thurston a winner in his farewell tour.
2018 Club Record
Competition Points: 18 (13th placed)
2018 Player Achievements
Paul Bowman Medal: Jason Taumololo
Most Tries: Kyle Feldt (14)
Most Points: Johnathan Thurston (166)
Rugby League fans at the start of 2018 expected Johnathan Thurston’s North Queensland Cowboys to go one better and win the premiership. The signs were encouraging early on with a first-up win against Cronulla and almost snatching victory in Brisbane, had it not been for Scott Bolton colliding with the posts on his way to scoring inside the final two minutes. That loss sent the Cowboys on a five game losing streak with some particularly poor performances at home against the Penrith Panthers and Canterbury Bulldogs. With their loss in round 10 against the Wests Tigers, the Cowboys hopes of making the finals were slim having only won on three occasions.
Things went from bad to worse for the Cowboys in round 11 when Michael Morgan was forced from the field with a season ending bicep injury. This would also force him out of the upcoming State of Origin series. Injuries to key players would dominate their season. Storm recruit Jordan McLean had little impact on the Cowboys season after breaking his foot early in the season. Matt Scott at times struggled with neck problems which restricted his on-field influence. It took until early April for Shaun Fensom to return to the game after breaking his leg in the 2017 decider. Antonio Winterstein was forced into retirement in late July with knee problems after 214 NRL games of which he played 167 at the club.
It was an unhappy campaign for Lachlan Coote who found himself playing Intrust Super Cup football mid-season. After 83 games at the club, he was offloaded to St Helens in a swap for former Sharks fullback Ben Barba. Six other players were released including Fensom and Scotland International Kane Linnett.
On a brighter note, there were some consistent performers in the Cowboys ranks. Kyle Feldt was dangerous out wide and finished at the top of the tryscoring list at the club. Jason Taumololo ranked third in the NRL for most run metres in averaging 177 per game. Gavin Cooper led from the front. His combination with JT in attack will be missed. Cooper made history in breaking Frank Burke’s 100 year record in becoming the first forward to score tries in nine straight matches.
Coach Paul Green re-signed with the Cowboys in April for a further three seasons. By the end of the season, Green was 27 shy of the late Graham Murray’s 161 games in charge of the club. Green has been the most successful coach at the club with a win percentage of 57%. Next year will be about rebuilding the club after the retirement of JT and poor 2018 record.
NothingButLeague Player of the Season
Another stellar season from the great Johnathon Thurston who played every minute of the Cowboys 2018 campaign. He was by far the most influential player at the club in attack, setting up twenty-six tries, eighteen clear of next best Te Maire Martin and Michael Morgan. It was clear that his frustration got the better of him with the side not performing as well as expected and the fact he was targeted a lot more in defence, missing 44 tackles, fourth worse in the league. Thurston bowed out of the game with 323 NRL matches (294 for the Cowboys) and 2,222 points (2,182 for the Cowboys); having played 37 Origin matches and 38 times for the Kangaroos.
2019 GAINS AND LOSSES
Ben Barba (St Helens), Tom Opacic (Brisbane Broncos)
Johnathan Thurston (retired), Antonio Winterstein (retired), Lachlan Coote (St Helens), Josh Chudleigh (released), Shaun Fensom (released), Sam Hoare (released), Shaun Hudson (released), Kyle Laybutt (released), Kane Linnett (released).