The season is over, so stop with the Cowboys superlatives

Lee Oliver Roar Rookie

By Lee Oliver, Lee Oliver is a Roar Rookie

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22 Have your say

    The NRL grand final is done and dusted and I for one am glad. Like other footy fans I’m sad that the season is over but I’m relieved that I don’t have to listen to more media exaggeration about the North Queensland Cowboys’ so-called “fairytale” and “miraculous” season.

    Don’t get me wrong, I thought the Cowboys’ run in the playoffs – winning three straight sudden-death games to reach the grand final – was special. But the media throwing around superlatives as regularly as a star playmaker throws cut-out passes – really?

    The overly parochial Queensland sports media wets itself over Johnathan Thurston and his team’s exploits but it seems all rugby league media was excessively gushy over the Cowboys “overcoming adversity” this year. Oh, please. Spare me the histrionics! We’re talking about the team that won the premiership two short years ago – with 12 members of its 2017 grand final side.

    As for the Cowboys’ injury woes, they had four players out for the season. Compare that to the season-ending injury toll endured by Gold Coast (ten), Newcastle (eight) and Wests Tigers (six). After North Queensland lost Australian prop Matt Scott early in the season and champion halfback Thurston required surgery on his busted shoulder mid-year, a lot of people wrote off the Cowboys’ title chances.

    I thought that while Paul Green’s team probably wouldn’t seriously push for the title, they were sure things to make the top eight. Despite North Queensland’s noted injuries, it’s hardly miraculous that the team qualified for the finals.

    Cowboys coach Paul Green

    (AAP Image/Michael Chambers)

    When Thurston was ruled out for the season in June the Cowboys were comfortably in the top eight, two wins ahead of the ninth-placed team. The Cowboys then compiled a 5-5 record in its final 10 games of the regular season. Five of those games were against teams below North Queensland on the ladder. For some perspective, in 1999 the Brisbane Broncos won 12 of its last 14 games to finish eighth, after winning one of its first 10 games that season.

    North Queensland’s march to the grand final was as impressive as St George making the 1996 decider. A team with just three then-current Origin players, the Dragons qualified for the grand final from seventh position by winning three sudden death matches.

    The Cowboys are a team that knows how to win – and hasn’t had a losing season since 2010. Without Thurston and Scott, the Townsville side still boasted seven international players, including four State of Origin representatives and the reigning Dally M player of the year and league’s most destructive ball-runner, Jason Taumalolo.

    Thurston’s replacement as Cowboys’ halfback was Michael Morgan. Morgan isn’t a rookie thrust into a pressure-cooker atmosphere after being thrown into the deep end by his coach. Sure, he normally plays in the number six jersey but we’re talking about an Australian Kangaroos representative who has won several State of Origin series with Queensland and has around 130 NRL appearances to his name.

    Was it really that surprising that Morgan stood tall in JT’s absence and led the Cowboys around the park so professionally? He’s a proven match winner – the guy who orchestrated a miraculous last-second try that led to the Cowboys winning the 2015 grand final.

    There have been more astounding positional changes that produced on-field success. In the 1999 semi-finals, Matt Geyer shifted from Melbourne’s wing to replace Ben Anderson at five-eighth, then helped his team win the grand final. Five years after a 14-game NRL career, 28-year-old halfback Shane Perry helped Brisbane win the 2006 title. The Storm reached last year’s grand final without Billy Slater, the best fullback of the modern era. Those are arguably “fairytale” stories.

    Was North Queensland’s 2017 season memorable? Yes. Gutsy? Absolutely. Perhaps even remarkable? Sure. Was it a fairytale? No.

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    The Crowd Says (22)

    • Roar Guru

      October 3rd 2017 @ 8:46am
      Adam said | October 3rd 2017 @ 8:46am | ! Report

      Yes they had 12 from the 2015 grand final but they were missing arguably the best player of the modern era. As well as Australia’s best prop. This is just coming across as a little salty.

      • October 3rd 2017 @ 3:28pm
        Lee Oliver said | October 3rd 2017 @ 3:28pm | ! Report

        Yes, the Cowboys lost Scott and Thurston but I am astounded that people wrote off the team given JT’s replacement is an Australian Kangaroos player and NQ still had one of the league’s best playing rosters.

      • October 4th 2017 @ 4:43am
        realist said | October 4th 2017 @ 4:43am | ! Report

        What……….are they a 2 man team? The same can be said about Manly missing Brett Stewart & Steve Matai for the whole season not just part of it. All teams have injuries to deal with. The Cowboys had 2 whilst other teams were decimated by injuries. Can bet the bottom teams would love to have the players the Cowboys did throughout the year!

    • Roar Guru

      October 3rd 2017 @ 8:46am
      The Barry said | October 3rd 2017 @ 8:46am | ! Report

      At the end of the day it wasn’t a fairytale because they didn’t win it but it was a great run and deserved all the accolades.

      They might have won the grand final two years ago but to get as far as they did without their two most experienced players and co-captains was incredible.

      Even ignoring the influence and ability of those two, combined they’re between 15-20% of the Cowboys roster from a salary cap perspective. In an era where “one percenters” can make all the difference.

      Plus all the blokes they had playing busted every week. I loved the way they kept showing up and getting the job done against more fancied sides. It’s the sort of romance that you don’t always get from professional sport.

      I think it was a great underdog story – until they ran into a far better side in the grand final.

      Enough superlatives? ?

      • October 3rd 2017 @ 3:50pm
        Lee Oliver said | October 3rd 2017 @ 3:50pm | ! Report

        I agree. The Cowboys making the grand final from eighth was astounding but I wasn’t at all surprised that they made the finals. Maybe having one of the NRL’s elite teams branded as the ‘underdog’ each week had me confused?

        • Roar Guru

          October 3rd 2017 @ 6:49pm
          The Barry said | October 3rd 2017 @ 6:49pm | ! Report

          I don’t know Lee. Losing Scott early and then JT had plenty of people tipping them to bomb out of contention.

          As for it not being surprised they made the eight – halfway through round 26 their fate was completely out of their hands and it took a win by a $3.45 outsider to get them into the eight. You must be harder to surprise than most.

          If they’d have won it would have been the biggest grand final upset I could remember.

          • October 4th 2017 @ 12:33am
            Lee Oliver said | October 4th 2017 @ 12:33am | ! Report

            In Round 16 (when JT got injured) I still thought the Cowboys had the personnel and enough wins on the board to be in good shape for the top 8 come season’s end.

            As for what happened in Round 26, I thought the Cowboys may have beaten Broncos at home – and I just knew for sure that the Dragons (like the Demons in the AFL) would falter with their finals fate in their own hands.

            • Roar Guru

              October 4th 2017 @ 11:32am
              Nat said | October 4th 2017 @ 11:32am | ! Report

              Surely you appreciate the loss of JT and Scott to the team Lee? They do have other quality players but do you think Storm win without Cronk/Bronwich? Pearce/JWH, Maloney/Gal, Hunt/McGuire or DCE/Jurbo do any of those teams make the 8 let alone the final? All teams have other good players but those two are not only the best in NQ but the best in Rugby League.

    • October 3rd 2017 @ 8:53am
      Jimmmy said | October 3rd 2017 @ 8:53am | ! Report

      No Virginia there is no Santa Claus. While I’m at it the tooth fairy is a pile of dung and as for the Easter bunny.!!
      The Cows, ( just like Parra in 09) was a great story because , well , it was a great story. Merry Xmas.

    • Roar Guru

      October 3rd 2017 @ 9:42am
      Nat said | October 3rd 2017 @ 9:42am | ! Report

      The season is over and Lee has decided to go fishing. You’ll earn your place in the Daily Tele soon enough champ.

    • Roar Guru

      October 3rd 2017 @ 9:51am
      Wayne said | October 3rd 2017 @ 9:51am | ! Report

      Salt Intensifies

    • October 3rd 2017 @ 10:04am
      AGordon said | October 3rd 2017 @ 10:04am | ! Report


      A bit early to be writing this article, given the season’s been over less than 48 hours.

      You do make good points though. North Qld were one of several “fairytales” throughout the season if the journalists are to be believed, who only write to try and outdo each other with superlatives.

      The Dragons were an early “fairytale” with their start to the year, then Manly took on that tag mid year. Parra were the biggest fairytale towards the end of the season, until they became genuine premiership contenders, then the Cowboys were the new fairytale, until they lost the GF.

      Maybe that could be your next article; who were all the “fairytale stories in the 2017 season? Josh Atto-Carr would be one for sure, throw in a dose of Billy Slater’s comeback from injury and Cooper Cronk’s “fairytale” finish to his career and you’ve got the makings of an article

      • October 3rd 2017 @ 3:56pm
        Lee Oliver said | October 3rd 2017 @ 3:56pm | ! Report

        You are right. How many coaches were (if you believe media speculation) on the verge of being punted before their side suddenly morphed into one of the form teams of the league?

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