If history dictates that the Cowboys cannot win the premiership this year due to them being out of the top four, then Coach Neil Henry almost delivered confirmation when he stupidly elected to play champion five-eighth Jonathan Thurston in a meaningless game and risk injury.
The Cowboys are considered a 12/1 chance of winning the grand final this year, but those odds would have tumbled to 50/1 had Thurston – or star fullback Matt Bowen – been injured.
Henry’s justification was that it is good to keep the same team and maintain momentum. We all agree with those thoughts, but it is meaningless if the rudder falls off the boat.
The Cowboys would have finished fifth regardless of the result against the Sharks so the reward for playing their stars was limited. The potential downside was monumental and it was a risk that did not have to be taken.
Cowboys fans and Chairman Laurence Lancini should be asking why the coach and CEO Peter Jourdain put the entire house at risk when they did not have to.
With four minutes remaining on Sunday the Sharks Ben Pomeroy caused many North Queenslanders heart to miss a beat when the unthinkable happened.
Thurston was down for the count and the hit was that ferocious that it could have been a broken jaw or yet another shoulder dislocation.
Thankfully, the man widely regarded as the world’s best rugby league player got up and walked off seemingly unscathed.
Why did Thurston take the field? I feel that coach Neil Henry would have preferred to rest Thurston and Bowen, but the players wanted to have a run and what they want, they normally get.
Throughout the years, reports have come out that at the Cowboys, player power rules. Are the Cowboys stars so big that they can over-rule the coach and throw any logic out the window?
Either General Manager of Football Peter Parr, or former News Limited Exec Peter Jourdain, had a responsibility to step in and make a decision in the best interests of the club’s premiership chances.
Whoever made the decision to allow Thurston and Bowen to play should thank their lucky stars that they escaped injury.
The NRL has adopted the AFL finals system this season and no side has won a premiership from beyond the top four since the revamp of the final eight in 2000.
Only one team in AFL history (Adelaide, 1997) has won four finals straight to clinch a flag, so the odds are against the Cowboys.
However, the regular season is over. From here, there is only one thing the Cowboys can do – just keep winning.