After their 27-10 loss to the Canterbury Bulldogs on Saturday night, North Queensland’s season is in trouble and I don’t know what they need to do to fix it.

That makes it five consecutive losses for the Cowboys – only the Parramatta Eels have been as disappointing on the field.

The Cowboys began the season as premiership favourites and for good reason. Last year they made the grand final despite being without Matt Scott for most of the season, Johnathan Thurston for half of it, and injuries to players like Michael Morgan and Lachlan Coote throughout.

Not only did they have Thurston and Scott returning, but they also bolstered their forward pack with the signing of Jordan McLean and were tipped to be stronger in attack because of what Morgan learnt when he took control of the team in JT’s absence.

But what was working last year doesn’t seem to be working anymore.

The most obvious thing that has happened is that everyone is a year older. I know that is stating the obvious, but for the first time, they look, slow, old and off the pace.

There’s no getting around that some members are nearing the end of their careers. Thurston is 34 years old – an age where many players have retired. I don’t think many realised how much impact his last injury would have on him. While he will never be the player he was ten years ago, he is no longer the man they just throw the ball to and expect to create magic.

But even Morgan, who is not old and slow, looks it at the moment.

Michael Morgan of the Cowboys

AAP Image/ Action Photoraphics, Robb Cox

Before his performance against the Bulldogs, I was a proponent of giving Morgan control of this team. In the past, the Cowboys have depended on Thurston playing on both sides of the ruck. I thought it was time for Morgan to take more control in attack.

But against the Dogs he also looked off the pace and made a couple of crucial errors, including kicking a ball out on the full and passing the ball to no one.

The other fundamental problem is that the pack is not having the impact it used to.

Part of this is down to Jason Taumololo having less impact. Taumololo was the best forward in the game in 2017, finishing with 4469 metres at an average of 203 – up from 2016, when he made 4002 metres at an average of 167.

I wonder whether this dip in form can be put down to teams working out how to contain him – a good example of which was shown when they played the Broncos and Tevita Pangai Junior shut Taumololo down – whether he has taken a lesser role because of the return of Matt Scott or if he is tired following his impact in 2016, 2017 and during the World Cup.

This year, Taumololo is averaging about 150 metres per game. As a Parramatta fan, I am desperate for these sorts of numbers, but it is not the impact we are used to.

Jason Taumalolo runs the ball

AAP Image/Julian Smith

The lack of impact from the forwards is also problematic because North Queensland depend on their big men to put their spine in a position to run structured attacking plays.

At its core, footy is a simple game. It is the role of the forwards to make metres and get their team into the attacking zone. Once the forwards have laid the platform, the backline can put pressure on the defence and hopefully score points.

North Queensland have adhered to this formula for several years.

On the back of a successful forward pack and an exceptional spine, other deficiencies – most notably their backline – have not been highlighted.

A good example is the difficulty they have scoring long-range tries. In the year the Cowboys won the competition, they only scored two tries from over halfway. This year, they are having trouble getting down the field, are not able to play inside their proven structures and, as a result, are struggling.

Coach Paul Green is a big believer in playing his way out of trouble. He is loyal and I do not expect him to make too many changes ahead of their next game, against the Titans.

But how much longer can we say ‘it’s early in the season, give them time’?

The Cowboys may only be two wins outside the top eight, but how much longer do we have before we declare their season to be on life support?

Mary Konstantopoulos
Mary Konstantopoulos

Mary Konstantopoulos is a lawyer, sports advocate and proud owner and founder of the Ladies Who empire, including Ladies who League, Ladies who Legspin, Ladies who Lineout and Ladies who Leap. You can find her podcast on iTunes and find her on Twitter @mary__kaye and @ladieswholeague.

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The Crowd Says (78)

  • April 16th 2018 @ 4:50am
    uglykiwi said | April 16th 2018 @ 4:50am | ! Report

    Personally I think the Roosters are going worst!!
    Would love to see the cowboys playing the Roosters this weekend!!
    2 over rated forward packs. But I think the cowboys will finish above the Roosters this year!

    • Columnist

      April 16th 2018 @ 9:00am
      Mary Konstantopoulos said | April 16th 2018 @ 9:00am | ! Report

      Uglykiwi, as an Eels fan I’ll agree with any comment which does not refer to the Eels being the worst at the moment. 😛

    • April 16th 2018 @ 2:16pm
      JN said | April 16th 2018 @ 2:16pm | ! Report

      I disagree.
      Roosters have been hot and cold
      Cowboys have been cold
      Even in the Cowboys win they didn’t look promising

      Therefore, Roosters have been quite a bit better than the Cowboys

      • Columnist

        April 16th 2018 @ 9:09pm
        Mary Konstantopoulos said | April 16th 2018 @ 9:09pm | ! Report

        I think there are three teams that have been stand outs – the Tigers, the Warriors and the Dragons. You could also throw the Panthers in there!

        There are two abysmal teams – the Eels and the Cowboys.

        Everyone else is in between!

  • April 16th 2018 @ 4:59am
    farqueue said | April 16th 2018 @ 4:59am | ! Report

    Except for two late tries by the dogs in round 26 last year….the cowboys don’t even make the semis….then they win 3 games in a row….get smashed in grand final…. now they start season favourites….ok JT and Scott are back but they were only a fringe top 8 side last year….I bet Tallis wishes he didn’t say it’s the greatest forward pack in the history of rugby league before the season started.

    • April 16th 2018 @ 8:09am
      Mick said | April 16th 2018 @ 8:09am | ! Report

      I’ve seen a lot comments about Cowboys were lucky to make the eight. Its true that the if Dragons win in round 26, the Cowboys don’t make eight. But you could look at anyone of the cowboys losses through the season, and say if they’d won that, they’d have make the eight comfortably. No side has finished on 30 points and missed the eight. The main goal in the NRL is to win a grand final. The Cowboys got there because of a lot hard work and determination during the season and they got results in finals.

      • Roar Guru

        April 16th 2018 @ 8:32am
        Emcie said | April 16th 2018 @ 8:32am | ! Report

        I think people forget that the Cowboys had one of the hardest draws of the season as well and easily the most difficult out of the teams in the top eight

        • Roar Rookie

          April 16th 2018 @ 8:53am
          3_Hats SSTID 2014 said | April 16th 2018 @ 8:53am | ! Report

          That is Rubbish mate, every game is difficult in the NRL
          If you are only 2% off your game you will lose.
          If you are 5% off your game you get smashed.

          Rd 1 the Cows defeated an ordinary Sharks outfit and have lost 5 in a row now.

          Rd 2 were unlucky against a disjointed Broncos
          Rd 3 was smashed by the Storm.
          Rd 4 smashed by the Panthers who were ordinary the 2 weeks before.
          Rd 5 belted by the Warriors.
          Rd 6 Smashed at home by an ordinary Bulldogs team.

          Sure played the Panthers and the Warriors but NO excuses with losses to the Broncos and Dogs.

          Overall I give the Cows a D minus

          • Roar Guru

            April 16th 2018 @ 9:31am
            Emcie said | April 16th 2018 @ 9:31am | ! Report

            I was refering to last year when they made the finals

    • Columnist

      April 16th 2018 @ 9:01am
      Mary Konstantopoulos said | April 16th 2018 @ 9:01am | ! Report

      Sorry farqueue, I just don’t buy that. The season is full of ifs and buts. The reality is the Cowboys made the GF with a team missing two of its best players. I think they proved they deserved to be there and that because of that many have been surprised with how this season has started.

      • April 17th 2018 @ 5:35am
        farqueue said | April 17th 2018 @ 5:35am | ! Report

        How does a team finishing 8 out of 16 even deserve to make a finals series…it’s all about money….it should be top 6 max… most people would say top 5….only win 50% of your games then win three in a row and you make grand final….that’s a crap finals system.

  • April 16th 2018 @ 6:16am
    uglykiwi said | April 16th 2018 @ 6:16am | ! Report

    Farqueue, hahaha; Remember Rodney Hogg said Shane Warne would take 1000 test wickets and got sacked from “The Truth” for it…………. In hindsight not a bad guess……….. Tallis on the other hand……. worst call ever.
    Also I agree, They shouldnt even of made the 8.

    Look at a couple of games in the semis, they got Parra after they should have beat the Storm and they were flat and they got the Roosters…… who they just out muscled (weak forward pack). Got to GF and got smashed.

    Still I think they will finish above the Roosters. other teams know how to beat the Roosters now; just take them on in the forwards and you will win 90% of the games against the Roosters.
    As a Roosters Supporter I just can’t believe how weak they are, Napa………. I’d swap him for the Manly guy that made his debut last night… at least that guy ran straight and hard……. when was the last time Napa did take?
    As for Hargraves, the least said the best; he’s a shadow of the man he used to be.

    The Dogs will eat them up this weekend.

    • Columnist

      April 16th 2018 @ 9:16am
      Mary Konstantopoulos said | April 16th 2018 @ 9:16am | ! Report

      You are right about the Roosters forwards. JWH hasn’t really been the same since he did his knee and Napa is having limited impact. I was worried about the Roosters as soon as Taukeiaho was ruled out…

  • Roar Rookie

    April 16th 2018 @ 7:17am
    Dirk Diggler said | April 16th 2018 @ 7:17am | ! Report

    Let’s put some perspective into the debate. Yes the Cowboys look off the pace, the halves are not firing and the forward pack has been disappointing. It also needs to be said the Cowboys have played the Sharks, Storm, Broncos, Panthers & Warriors thus far. Bar the Warriors all these sides were expected to make the Top 8.

    I think amongst the problems with the halves and forward pack, Coote is still underdone, O’Neill & Winterstein have been very quiet the only one that has been playing his heart out every week is Feldt.

    This team knows how to win, so I would expect things to turn around and you definately cannot write off the team at this stage. I also agree the Roosters have been just as disappointing but that’s another discussion.

    • Columnist

      April 16th 2018 @ 9:18am
      Mary Konstantopoulos said | April 16th 2018 @ 9:18am | ! Report

      Dirk, I think ‘expected’ to make the top 8 is very different from what we have seen so far this season.

      The reality is there are 3 (maybe 4) stand out sides at the moment – the Warriors, the Tigers, the Dragons and maybe Penrith. There are two sides I would call ‘abysmal’ – I’ll leave you to work out who they are and then everyone else.

      The team certainly can turn it around, but as I said, how much longer do they have to turn it around before their season is declared to be on life support. I called it for the Eels last week…

      • Roar Rookie

        April 16th 2018 @ 12:24pm
        Dirk Diggler said | April 16th 2018 @ 12:24pm | ! Report

        Agree Mary maybe one positive (or negative depending on how you look at it) is that State of Origin might not be such an issue this year! Morgo you’d think will improve, Scott a maybe but not on current form, McLean a no now, and probably Hess.

        They also have a relatively soft schedule coming up but agree if they don’t win the next 3 or 4 on the trot it could be all over.

        • Columnist

          April 16th 2018 @ 2:16pm
          Mary Konstantopoulos said | April 16th 2018 @ 2:16pm | ! Report

          I agree with you there Dirk! I don’t think the Origin period will have the same impact so there is still time for the Cowboys to turn it around but they need to do it quick smart!

  • April 16th 2018 @ 7:25am
    jamesb said | April 16th 2018 @ 7:25am | ! Report

    I do agree that Morgan should take control of the team. JT is no where near 100%. Also, JT is retiring at the end of the season. So you are better off giving control to a player that will be at the Cowboys beyond this season.

    • Columnist

      April 16th 2018 @ 9:10pm
      Mary Konstantopoulos said | April 16th 2018 @ 9:10pm | ! Report

      I felt this way before the game on the weekend but oh my stars, Morgan had a shocker.

  • April 16th 2018 @ 7:30am
    KingCowboy said | April 16th 2018 @ 7:30am | ! Report

    Things are just not yet clicking for us. The effort has been there all season but our execution is just lacking. I don’t think there is no secret formula or anything like that, the boys just need to continue to put in the hard work and things will turn around.

    I was at the game on Saturday night and from what I witnessed, everything was just 5% off. Take nothing away from the Dogs, the were really good and they were the better team on the night but if Lolo gets the ball down, we win the game. It just killed the momentum.

    JT did have a better game but Morgs did play poorly but I have the utmost confidence that his from will come good. I thought Hess was quiet and Lolo went ok but as a team, we just need to pull together and work hard. This is the time for the true believers, not a time to turn on our boys!!!!!

    • April 16th 2018 @ 8:27am
      jimmmy said | April 16th 2018 @ 8:27am | ! Report

      Hi, KC,
      Not really the start we wanted mate but we deal with what we are given. I agree with some of what you say. We are 5 to 10percent off in everything we are doing .That will change . We will get those things right again.
      Where I disagree with you is the effort. Seriously you can’t say our pack ‘Put in ‘ on Saturday night. We were soft . That’s a fact , The Dogs got two soft tries that our pack would never have let through last year.. Aim up or the Blackhawks I say.
      I also disagree with Green about the poor start affecting us badly. We have never ever let poor starts upset us. It has been one of our enduring strengths in the last few years.
      I don’t necessarily want us to win this week. But I want players to put it on the line . I can cop poor form , but not a lack of effort.

      • April 16th 2018 @ 8:39am
        KingCowboy said | April 16th 2018 @ 8:39am | ! Report

        Jimmmy my friend, we just need to have faith in the boys. I haven’t watched a replay of the game and I had about twelve beers under my belt but from where I was seating the effort was there but just our execution wasn’t. Saying that, I do respect what you are saying as I can be biased as I love what this team has done over the last couple of years.

        The thing that gives me hope is that I can see the boys are really hurting and that is a great sign to me. Morgs will have a great game against the Titans and we will win. Have Faith Brother!!!!!!

        • Roar Guru

          April 16th 2018 @ 9:11am
          Nat said | April 16th 2018 @ 9:11am | ! Report

          It is simple things fellas. Morgan is missing Linnett as he stands deep and runs hard into holes. JT isn’t being afforded the space he used too so the runner need to be back another meter and he’ll put them into gaps. I liken JT13 to Watmough 2.0, he is at his most dangerous taking the ball off the ruck and at full pace. He started doing that at the end on Saturday and was destructive.

          • April 16th 2018 @ 9:57am
            I miss the force said | April 16th 2018 @ 9:57am | ! Report

            Missing linnet? Has anyone ever said that ?

            • Roar Guru

              April 16th 2018 @ 10:36am
              Nat said | April 16th 2018 @ 10:36am | ! Report

              3 GFs in 8 yrs and a premiership winner. That’s about 3 more than your team.

            • April 16th 2018 @ 4:34pm
              Rob said | April 16th 2018 @ 4:34pm | ! Report

              Linnett plays the other side to Morgan? Linnett who’s a bigger body and solid defender helps out JT in the defensive line. His early, strong carriers are something the Cowboys are missing also.
              JT is a defesive liability at the best of times but the thing that he use to do was position himself and stick in the tackle. At the moment he is getting bumped and can’t cover up because his legs are to slow. He’s struggling.

        • April 16th 2018 @ 9:44am
          jimmmy said | April 16th 2018 @ 9:44am | ! Report

          I never lose faith KC. I remember 1995 , and 2000 very well indeed and things are not that bad. The bottom line is we are a much , much better team than we are showing atm.
          My criticism is only that some players are not putting in the required effort . If my team tries, it’s heart out and gets beat by 40, so be it. But not manning up in D and not running full bore are inexcusable.
          I don’t care if we win or not this week as long as I see more effort than on Sat night.
          The season is not over by a long way but we need to focus on effort first and then the results will come.

        • Columnist

          April 16th 2018 @ 9:48am
          Mary Konstantopoulos said | April 16th 2018 @ 9:48am | ! Report

          Does 12 beers help? Maybe that’s how I should watch the next Eels game?

          • April 16th 2018 @ 9:58am
            jimmmy said | April 16th 2018 @ 9:58am | ! Report

            Have a chaser with each one . They will start to look top notch.

          • Roar Guru

            April 16th 2018 @ 2:30pm
            Matt H said | April 16th 2018 @ 2:30pm | ! Report

            It doesn’t appear to have helped the players, so maybe they should skip that part of the warm up next week.

    • Columnist

      April 16th 2018 @ 9:41am
      Mary Konstantopoulos said | April 16th 2018 @ 9:41am | ! Report

      KingCowboy, as an Eels fan I really do sympathise with you. I know this is a really hard situation to be in.

      And I hope you understand that I still believe the Cowboys can turn this around and that this article is in no way me turning on the team or trying to criticise them. I was ready to write another article about the Eels, but thought it was too soon after only having written about them about 3 weeks ago.

      Keep the faith my friend!

      • April 16th 2018 @ 12:19pm
        KingCowboy said | April 16th 2018 @ 12:19pm | ! Report

        Hey Mary, have no issue with your article at all. As always, you have listed some well thought points. I just have blind faith that we are going to get the results that we crave. Coach Green resigning for three years is massive for us. Once we get a win, I am confident we are going to go on a run. Morgs is the man to life us, like I think Norman is the guy to lift your boys.

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