With Part 1 analysing the people behind the scenes, the players make up Part 2.
After three straight weeks where they have grossly under-achieved, I think it’s time someone asked: what the heck is going on with the North Queensland Cowboys?
With one solitary win from the first month of the NRL competition, Neil Henry’s star-studded team is looking every inch a premiership dud at a time when many of us thought they’d be high-rolling near the head of the pack.
The Wizard has got to ask: are these guys still reading their pre-season press? Are they failing to get down and dirty in games, or are they leaving everything up to spearheads Johnathan Thurston and Matty Bowen when the going gets tough?
I was at Mount Smart Stadium last weekend when the Cowboys played more like Lost Cowboys and lost to the NZ Warriors.
It was a game I thought they should have won by 20 or more points but instead, the home team chalked up their first win of the season.
North Queensland blew a number of chances throughout the game. There is no other way I can describe their performance but to say it was a butter-fingered effort.
They have a player roster which can win the comp yet they bumbled and fumbled their way from the first minute to the 80th and paid the price.
This team has Australia’s Test props, a freakish half-back and a fullback who ranks amongst the most dangerous ball carriers in the League.
But they drop the ball, and drop it again and just when you think they will do something right – they drop it yet again.
I think they bombed six dead-set tries against the Warriors who, I must say, came up with a very gritty effort, with halfback Shaun Johnson starring by (finally) running straight and taking the ball right to the line.
Thurston, to me, looks to be trying too hard to lift his team-mates. Even this little maestro has been guilty of coughing up possession at vital times when tries look certain. For JT, this must be incredibly frustrating.
The Cowboys play Penrith at Townsville tomorrow night. As I see it, this game will show us whether they are going to be serious challengers this year.
Another loss could prove very hard to swallow, especially with the rep season not too far away.
But having said all of the above, I have faith in North Queensland to get the verdict in this one and ‘begin’ the season we all thought they would have.
They have the players to beat all challengers this year and it wouldn’t surprise me if they bowl over the Panthers and go on a run that nets them eight to ten wins in a row.
I thought they had the side to achieve great things last year but they lost all momentum in the finals, on the back of a highly controversial refereeing decision.
Only good things have been happening off-field for the Cowboys this year. Coach Henry, JT, Matt Scott and James Tamou have all re-signed contracts which suggests it’s a happy place and with this player and coaching quality, good results should have been a formality.
Instead we’ve seen the opposite with successive losses to the Storm, Knights and Warriors.
I don’t think the results have been caused by complacency but unbelievably poor ball control has been their downfall and it must be rectified immediately.
Otherwise the Cowboys won’t be playing at 1300SMILES Stadium for much longer.
They’ll be playing at their own wake.