The North Queensland Cowboys under Todd Payten will hope to build on their 15th place finish when 2022 NRL Premiership season kicks off next month.
2022 COWBOYS SQUAD
Daejarn Asi, Kane Bradley, Lachlan Burr, Benjamin Condon, Reuben Cotter, Thomas Dearden, Scott Drinkwater, Mitchell Dunn, Brendan Elliot, Kyle Feldt, Tom Gilbert, Jake Granville, Ben Hampton, Coen Hess, Peta Hiku, Valentine Holmes, Connelly Lemuelu, Jordan Lipp, Heilum Luki, Jordan McLean, Griffin Neame, Emry Pere, Reece Robson, Riley Price, Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow, Murray Taulagi, Jason Taumalolo, Jamayne Taunoa-Brown, Chad Townsend, Tyreece Woods.
KEY SIGNINGEmbed from Getty Images
Thirty-one-year-old halfback Chad Townsend’s move to the Cowboys is a boost for the club. Not only will Townsend bring experience to the halves with just under 200 games under his belt, but on-field leadership which may take the heat off superstars Jason Taumalolo and Valentine Holmes. Tom Dearden could be the benefactor of Townsend’s move to Townsville given the lack of confidence and success the former Bronco’s had in his career to date.
KEY PLAYEREmbed from Getty Images
Jason Taumalolo experienced a somewhat disappointing 2021 with injuries and less than expected game time under Todd Payten, fuelling rumours the club would be looking to offload the Cowboys highest paid player. Outside Coen Hess and Jordan McLean, the Cowboys pack is underexperienced, so Taumalolo’s role in the side is important. He is one of the senior statesmen at the club and his game, especially with the run metres he makes through midfield is vital to giving the Cowboys the platform to get on a roll in attack.
PLAYER TO WATCHEmbed from Getty Images
Reuben Cotter at some point in 2022 will become a regular fixture in the Cowboys squad. Reece Robson should be the hooker selected for the opening home game against the Bulldogs on March 13. Thirty-three-year-old Jake Granville will be in the mix to start from the bench and can play either hooker or back row. Similarly, Cotter has the same abilities but is ten years younger. Cotter showed in the All-Stars game he has the game to play as an impact player from the bench with his speed out of dummy half. This could be the year he doubles his NRL career games after 15 appearances in the past two seasons.
Bulldogs (H), Raiders (H), Broncos (A), Roosters (H), Warriors (A), Raiders (A), Titans (H), Eels (A), Knights (H), Tigers (Magic Round), Storm (H), Panthers (A), Titans (A), Dragons (H), Sea Eagles (A), Broncos (H), Sharks (H), Tigers (H), Dragons (A), Bulldogs (A), Roosters (A), Warriors (H), Rabbitohs (A), Panthers (H).
This is a critical year for the North Queensland Cowboys with Todd Payten in charge for his second year as head coach. In 2021 they finished second last on the ladder and with an improved Bulldogs outfit turning out this year, the Cowboys could be in danger of winning the wooden spoon.
Not only does Payten have a headache about what to do with his star number thirteen in Jason Taumalolo, but the club has up to a dozen players fighting for their NRL careers as they come off contract at the end of 2022. This instability may see the worst in the Cowboys efforts.
Chad Townsend’s arrival will help with establishing a regular halves pairing alongside Tom Dearden, with Scott Drinkwater to provide flair from the back and Val Holmes to play on the wing. Warriors forward Jamayne Taunoa-Brown joins the club and has shown what impact he can have with the New Zealand club, so it will be interesting to see how well he adapts to a Cowboys side which plays with less flair. Brendan Elliot’s back from a stint with Leigh Centurions in Super League as he looks to revive his NRL career.
The retirements of club legend Michael Morgan, Justin O’Neill and Javid Bowen highlight the departure of influential players and the gap between experience and youth.
A close eye will be watching the development of Riley Price, son of former Queensland Origin and Australian representative Steve. He has been named in the Cowboys development list and will develop his game at the Townsville Blackhawks in the HostPlus Cup this season.
Should the Cowboys be in contention for the NRL Finals series they would have gone above and beyond the expectations of most pundits.
It feels like the Cowboys will have to take three steps back, to go one step forward. Will the Cowboys management stick with Payten as the club rebuilds?