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Cowboys Loaded With Guns Are Having a Crack for the Title

Todd Payten’s men have set the competition on fire and have their sights set on knocking off the competition heavyweights in the upcoming weeks.

Every so often, there is that one team that comes out of nowhere to surprise the competition.

Who could forget the Penrith Panthers who shocked the Roosters in the 2003 decider only two seasons away from a wooden spoon?

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Or Benji Marshall’s Tigers who in 2005 came all the way from 12th spot after 15 rounds to win the premiership?

A fully loaded Cowboys team are primed to add themselves to the list of unexpected premiers.

If you had suggested that the Cowboys would be in the top four at any point this season, you would have been laughed at or sent off for a HIA.

This was a team that in 2021 earnt just two competition points over the last twelve rounds of the season and were considered by many to be one of the season’s most disappointing stories.

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Going into this season, not much was expected to change. Firstly, there was the rumoured rift between coach Todd Payten and captain Jason Taumalolo. The signing of Chad Townsend to a $2,000,000 contract was laughed as even his previous club the Sharks were happy to let him go.

Finally, an embarrassing 6-4 loss to perennial underachievers the Bulldogs in round one had many experts including Benji Marshall and Steve Roach selecting them as favourites for the wooden spoon. How wrong they were!

Flash forward and going into round 11, the Cowboys currently sit in third position on the ladder.

How did this happen?

Let’s start with the coach. Todd Payten has never shied away from setting high expectations for his squad. He made defence and fitness the focus for the preseason putting his team through a series of gruelling fitness challenges including constant runs up Castle Hill, a climb that even mountain goats shy away from.

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Before a ball was kicked, Payten declared that anything short of a finals berth for his side would be considered a disappointment.

The standard was set.

He also installed Chad Townsend as a co-captain. Townsend being a premiership winner, a solid game manager and someone who installs confidence in those around him.

These decisions have greatly impacted the playing roster.

Before this season, there were two players rarely spoken about in rugby league circles.

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Jeremiah Nanai was a guy with some talent but lots of room to grow. Reuben Cotter was potentially looking like the next tale in unfulfilled potential as injuries had cost him almost two seasons worth of games.

Now they are both established first graders and on the cusp of selection for Queensland in this year’s Origin series.

There may be many players with more talent but the heart this pair show is what the Cowboys’ season is built on. This has been no more evident in the hat trick Nanai scored against the Broncos in round three by competing for high balls or the 60-metre run from Cotter during Magic Round scoring his first try in the process.

Tom Dearden is another who is realising his true potential this year and is one of the leaders in the NRL for try assists.

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Even Valentine Holmes, considered a disappointment when he first returned from the NFL, has found his spot in the centre position and has become a real leader for his side.

So where to now?

Over the next two rounds, the Cowboys will come up against the two sides currently in front of them on the ladder with many predicting them to come crashing back to Earth.

However, this is the test that the Cowboys have been building towards. Their defence is one of the best in the competition, they are playing for each other and are a side determined not to let anyone down.

This is the perfect time to be facing this test and while we might have been impressed so far, we have not seen anything yet.

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