Daniel Nichols continues his series if season reviews. This time it is the North Queensland Cowboys turn!
Fan Prediction: Top 3
Where It Went Right: We all know how the season ended for the Cowboys. 7 tackle try aside, the Cowboys should never have been in a position where a refereeing error could end their season in a sudden death play off. The Cowboys roster is so stacked they should have been playing for a week off before a possible grand final. A horrible start to the season saw coach Neil Henry sacked and questions asked about the commitment of superstars such as James Tamou and Matt Bowen. After beating the 2012 minor premiers the Bulldogs in round 1, they were hammered in their next 3 games, including a 32-10 belting in front of their own fans. It’s hard for any side, even one that contains the world’s best 5/8th to come back from a 1-3 start, especially when all 4 games were games the Cowboys would have fancied their chances in
A 5 game losing streak in the middle of the season when the Cowboys should have been up and firing looked like it would end the club’s season. It took an amazing 6 game winning streak , including big wins over the Bunnies, Knights and Sharks for the Cowboys to scrape into the finals. They ran into the Sharks in the first week of the finals, and refereeing controversy aside, had more than enough chances to put their opponents away. A last minute break saw the Cowboys almost snatch victory but after leading 6-0 within the first few minutes, and having led for most of the game, the Cowboys would have been kicking themselves that they couldn’t put Cronulla down for the count. Unfortunately for the North Queensland side that 80 minutes summed up their season well, great in patches but lacking that killer punch.
The club’s decision to allow James Segeyaro to move to the Panthers cost the side dearly as they struggled to find a replacement. Scott Moore started the season in the number 9 but lacked the form to make the position his own. Others were tried and although the Cowboys put together a late season run to the finals, the number 9 position remained a worry. Injuries to key players Dallas Johnson, Ash Graham and Matt Bowen robbed the club of experience and game breakers. James Tamou had an indifferent start to the season and his form was a far cry from that of 2012 which lead to an international tug of war for his services.
Where It Went Wrong: The announcement that coach Neil Henry would be released seemed to be the kick the Cowboys needed as they launched in incredible run towards the finals. Halfway through the season the Cowboys were at massive odds to make the top 8 as they sat in the bottom 2 with a horrible 4-9 record. Johnathan Thurston hit top form, whilst Matt Bowen turned back the clock to set the competition alight. Forwards Tamou and Scott started to dominate the ruck and Tariq Sims form returned as the Cowboys youngsters Feldt and Ulugia started scoring tries for fun. All the stars seemed to align for whatever reason, but 6 straight wins, many against tough opponents meant the club hit the finals in top form. An unfortunate refereeing error and a determined Sharks outfit ended their season, much to the relief of the other clubs.
The Cowboys outside backs clicked into gear late in the season and will have fans excited about their future. Brent Tate had one of his best years to date, which considering his success over the years is a huge positive. Ash Graham looked like backing up his terrific 2012 until injury unfortunately ended his season, and career. Youngsters Kyle Feldt and Wayne Ulugia showed they had no problem finding the line and will form an exciting wing combination next season. Tate, Winterstein and Linnett all had amazing years, meaning 2014 should be one full of tries for the Cowboys outside backs. Halves Johnathan Thurston and Robert Lui will be very much looking forward to returning to training and getting their combinations going for next season.
The removal of Neil Henry is one which has been hotly debated since the decision was made, but the appointment of Paul Green seems to be unanimously supported by players and fans alike. Green, a former NRL star with Origin experience comes highly recommended after his work at the Roosters and will be looking to put his own stamp on the talented squad as soon as possible. If Thurston, Scott and Tamou can come through the World Cup unscathed, Green will have a huge and exciting off season to ready his troops for what is shaping up as an exciting 2014.
Verdict: Nothing but a top 4 finish should be seen as successful for a team consisting of Thurston, Scott, Bowen and Tamou. The Cowboys will be extremely disappointed at their finish to the season, although halfway through 2013, each and every fan would have taken 8th spot in a heartbeat. Although they lost Bowen, Graham and club legend Matt Bowen, the Cowboys have recruited Lachlan Coote as well as allowing youngsters Feldt and Ulugia their first taste of first grade football. The decision to appoint former Cowboy Paul Green seems to be an inspired one and one which many expect to prove to be a big success. Fans will expect a big improvement next season and all signs point to the top 4 finish they probably should have achieved in 2013.
A well known Rugby League writer, League Freak has established a reputation among supporters of the game for his fearless commentary and unmatched insight. With a reach that spans both sides of the globe, League Freak has produced an independent network that allows him to distribute content to his many thousands of followers. He is the owner and main author of LeagueFreak.com
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