With Part 1 analysing the people behind the scenes, the players make up Part 2.
There is one simple rule when it comes to supporting North Queensland: expect the unexpected. It’s been the same for their entire history.
In 2000 they finished wooden spooners with just seven wins for the season, but also had 46- and 40-point thrashing of the Dragons and now-defunct Northern Eagles in those seven wins.
This season they have a team with two of the world’s best attacking backs, but get held to nil at home against last year’s wooden spooners.
They’re known for being one of the worst travelling teams in the competition, but have won both of their 2012 away games while slumping to a 1-3 home record.
The round seven match against the Sydney Roosters was another away game, albeit one that felt like home. The Roosters moved the game up to Darwin, which for a game against a Townsville-based side is similar to the Cowboys moving a home game against Canberra down to Hobart.
Adding to the Roosters’ problems was that the Cowboys arrived into Darwin on Tuesday to help promote the game in the city, where the Roosters only arrived for their ‘home’ game on the Thursday. They even wore their alternate white jersey which allowed the Cowboys to wear their home strip.
A more gracious host you couldn’t find, yet in the first half the Roosters went even further out of their way to make the Cowboys feel as home.
Antonio Winterstein weaved through some poor defence to open the scoring, before repeating soon afterwards. Ashley Graham got his almost obligatory try-a-game on the 16 minute mark, before Kalifa Faifai Loa, in his first NRL game for the year, somehow got the ball down in the corner despite being tackled, airborne, and pretty much completely over the sideline.
Watch the highlights around the 1:22 mark and try to keep your jaw shut. Cannot be done.
The first half’s scoring finished with quite possibly my favourite Cowboys play: Thurston faces one way, then chip kicks the other for a flying Matty Bowen to run through, collect and score. The good guys lead 28-0 at half time – and even better, Manly are losing to the Gold Coast.
The second half started in typical Cowboys fashion: expect the unexpected.
Although they led 28-0 after 40 minutes, the Roosters began to consider a comeback after two quick tries before two more were disallowed by the video ref. That three came from high kicks is a concern; to beat the likes of Melbourne you have to be able to defuse those and not rely on the opposition knocking on.
With 20 minutes to go the Cowboys woke up again, with young Jason Taumalolo proving twice that when 110kg of back-row muscle really wants to get the ball over the line, good luck stopping him.
In between the Taumalolo tries Ray Thompson pounced on a lost ball to return it back home over the Roosters line, before Matty Bowen finished the match with a blistering run, try, and conversion to help register 50 points for the first time in seven years.
Concede 40+ points at home? Run in 50 points of your own the very next game. Coincidentally, the last time they did that was in 2005 – the year we made the grand final.
As always with the Cowboys, expect the unexpected.