As I sit here and write this article, as a Cowboys fan documenting my frustration, I have no idea which song to listen to.
Do I listen to Chris Martin comfortingly caress my ears with “When you try your best but you don’t succeed” and listen to ‘Fix You’?
Or do I listen to the one of few country songs I’ll ever listen to, ‘C’mon The Cowboys’ by Lee Kernaghan?
As a frustrated yet still faithful Cowboys fan, I have no idea which song sums up my feelings better after seeing my side drop 37 points against the New Zealand Warriors.
This is absolutely no disrespect to the majority of the NRL’s current second team. The Warriors were very good in this game. They were absolutely superb. Their attack was top notch, and their defence (particularly in the second half) had levels of intent and desperation that had Cowboys fans green with envy. The Warriors also took the Cowboys to school by showing them how to play through the middle.
But for a side such as the Cowboys to drop nearly 40 points against a side that are indisputably not the Sydney Roosters, Parramatta Eels or the Newcastle Knights does not make for pleasant reading. The loss of Valentine Holmes and Jordan McLean made matters worse.
The reason ‘C’mon the Cowboys’ is so appropriate is due to the lyrical references to the tough, rugged North Queensland region, which is something that the Cowboys have built their image on as a team, the battlers from the North.
Tough and hardworking, and undeniably proud of their region, I don’t need any better evidence for this other than their remarkable 2017 finals run, and the 2015 premiership, which is still held so dear by Cowboys fans far and wide, but particularly in the North Queensland region.
There’s references to the fans joining together, and the sound of distant thunder, presumably referring to the proud and unwavering support of the Cowboys faithful.
However, when you listen to ‘Fix You’ – particularly the most iconic line of “When you try your best but you don’t succeed” – this sums up being a Cowboys fan for the last few years. Let’s walk through it.
The Cowboys’ admirable grand final place in 2017 captured the hearts of rugby league fans. Minus their two cherished and adored captains, Matt Scott and Johnathan Thurston, the Cowboys continuously defied the odds.
And with Thurston announcing that 2018 would be his swansong, the writing was on the wall for the Cowboys to win the 2018 premiership and do it for one of the game’s icons.
The Cowboys enjoyed a thrilling win over rivals Cronulla in Round 1. However, little did Cowboys fans know, it was all set to take a turn for the worse.
And the loss in the XXXX derby the following week, which was only lost after former prop and club hero Scott Bolton was denied a winning try by a goal post, would only be ominous for what was to come: close, and nearly there, but something missing.
Bookies got richer with the Cowboys being perceived to be a sure thing prior to the first ball being kicked. Journalists and experts were proven wrong and Cowboys fans’ disappointment only grew.
While the fact that the Cowboys kept their 2015 grand final-winning 17 all the way through to at least the start of 2018 (barring Rory Kostjasyn, Ben Hannant and James Tamou) was initially seen as a blessing, this became a curse very quickly.
It was quickly the receiver of many pointed fingers. Many times it seemed the club had lost their desire to play for each other. The Cowboys were stale and needed a new lick of paint following their underwhelming and surprising 2018 season.
And they got it. Kane Linnett, Lachlan Coote and Ethan Lowe headed for the exit door, while Antonio Winterstein, a long-time stalwart of the club, joined Thurston in retirement.
Tongues wagged through the year at the prospect of Townsville boy Valentine Holmes being rumoured to sign for the club. While this eventually happened, an NFL pit stop with the New York Jets franchise during the 2019 season was first.
Broncos duo Tom Opacic and Josh McGuire signed with the Cowboys, and so too did PNG Kumuls Nene MacDonald, Kurt Baptiste and Dan Russell. The 2012 Dally M medallist Ben Barba returned to the NRL with the club, signing from English Super League club St Helens in exchange for Lachlan Coote.
Cowboys fans approached the 2019 season with optimism. However, this too took a turn for the worse and events surrounding their prized signing added more words to the writing on the wall that 2019 would also not be the Cowboys’ year.
The NRL banned Ben Barba following an Australia Day incident involving his partner, leaving Jordan Kahu of the Broncos to be quickly signed, filling Barba’s spot and doing his best in what was a doomed season.
The 2019 season was summed up by the quote: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting a different result”.
As the Cowboys’ finals chances grew thinner week by week, so too did faith in premiership-winning coach Paul Green.
Fans grew sicker and sicker of the Cowboys’ mundane, repetitive and predictable tactics. They were tired of the refusal to change line-ups and blood young talent. Concerns over the players’ fitness and the inability to close out games came under further scrutiny.
Another season to forget, the Cowboys failed to make the finals for the second year in a row following a heroic grand final appearance against all odds against the Melbourne Storm.
What is wrong up there? Why is there no improvement? Why have we endured another season without success?
A side with Jason Taumalolo, Matt Scott, Jordan McLean, Michael Morgan, Josh McGuire and Kyle Feldt among others struggling? None of it seems right.
Does Paul Green need to leave? Is it time to part ways?
Season 2020 was the year it should all finally be looking up.
The Cowboys needed more pace and strike in their outside backs – enter Valentine Holmes and the untried Connelly Lemuelu, as well as the rise of the recently debuted Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow.
The Cowboys needed more offloads – enter Esan Marsters partnering up with Kyle Feldt.
Coen Hess needed to be fitter to return to the destructive form that earnt him an Origin debut at 20 in 2017 – he returned to the club after the off-season with an unbelievably shredded physique, making it obvious as to why the players call him “Drago”.
Thurston’s public wish for a new North Queensland stadium following their 2015 grand final win? Meet the Queensland Country Bank Stadium.
Paul Green was blessed with the headache of having Scott Drinkwater, Valentine Holmes and Jake Clifford in a side that boasts Michael Morgan.
The Townsvillans went on to win the Perth Nines, with the man they call “Hammer”, Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow, scoring dazzling, full-field tries and looking like he was going for a brisk jog in doing so.
Five rounds in, following a loss to the Warriors, and to the pessimist, it appears to be another long year for the Cowboys.
There are new systems and tactics appearing to be put in place, constant squad changes and a squad on paper that can do it all, not to mention the one with the things Cowboys fans had been wishing for.
But the Cowboys still appear to not succeed. The questions are asked.
Is it time for the club and Paul Green to part ways? Do they need new fitness and strength-and-conditioning staff? What is the seemingly evident underlying issue within that club?
With the squad catering for nearly everything Cowboys fans had been hoping for, and even a change in tactics, problems still persist.
But as Lee Kernaghan says: “it’s a long and it’s a high road, to make it to the top”.
Keep the faith Cowboys fans, let’s keep bringing “the sound of distant thunder” and get behind our boys. But with faith, let’s keep the patience as this climb could be quite a long one.
What happens in the next 12 months will make for very interesting times.