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Preview 07: North Queensland - Australian Rugby league News
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The GRL Phantom - Fri, 02 Mar 2007 09:39:00 GMT
The $64 question is can the Cowboys win their first ever premiership in season 2007, writes the GRL Phantom.

I hold no doubts they are capable of lassoing the NRL trophy.

This week I was given a ``brief'' by the editor, to espouse their strengths and weaknesses and give my overall assessment of their squad and the year ahead. For mine the Cowboys were the true disappointment of 2006.

The Graham Murray coached team reached the grand final the previous year, losing an entertaining grand final to the Tigers in season 2005 -playing a scintillating style of footy.

Last year, the Cowboys lost stacks of close games, not by much on the scoreboard or even in the technical aspect of the game.

I like the look of their squad this year, the addition of Jason Smith, brings a solution to their biggest problem in recent years -a genuine skilled five-eighth.

Smith may be nearing age 35, but his footy brain is worth a million dollars and when this Queenslander with ``time'' to do things with the footy in his hands retires - he will make a first class coach.

Smith plays the game between his ''ears'' and not many of the opposition can work it out.

For all the brute strength and power required to play the modern game -nothing beats the ``grey matter'' and Smith is the ''professor'' in this department.

Johnathan Thurston, clearly the number two halfback in the game - behind Andrew Johns - is now firmly entrenched as Queensland and Australian number seven.

Thurston is almost the complete package and signing Smith gives the Cowboys ``an on field coach'' to help manipulate the attacking structure of the game.

The Cowboys now have two specialist halves who can link together in attack or operate each side of the play-the-ball.

Luke O'Donnell's development as a world class lock or second rower was one of the highlights of the 2006 season.

The big five for the Cowboys for me in season 2007 are: Johnathan Thurston, Jason Smith, Luke O'Donnell, Matt Bowen and Aaron Payne.

The Cowboys have talent in Jacob Lilyman, Steve Southern, Shane Tronc and co in the pack, but the above mentioned are the team's best and smartest players.

I have always admired Payne's deft passing and running game around the play-the-ball. In a losing team on grand final night in 2005, he was close to being the best player on the ground in my view.

Thurston and Smith's role, of passing, running and creating will be crucial while O'Donnell's power runs and sledgehammer tackling and inspiration for the young forwards is absolutely vital.

Thurston is also a first class goalkicker and that's a bonus in itself.


Matt Bowen had his moments last year too.

He looked as brittle as a vita wheat biscuit at times and rock-solid at other times - his speed, swerve, agility, natural grace and footwork is God-given, not the finest coach in the game can even teach his skills.

The Phantom believes the Cowboys will gallop back into finals contention and make a definite charge for the title.

Other quality players with speed and try scoring potential are Brenton Bowen, Ty Williams and Carl Webb who provides size and punch in the forwards as well.

Paul Bowman is a veteran now, a tough tackling centre who did play some back row last year and a tremendous player for Queensland in State of Origin footy.

They have a good coach - a twice beaten grand finalist - once with Roosters (2000) and Cowboys (2005) but he can coach and he likes his teams to play with skill, poise and flair.

Don't forget they've replaced former assistant coac Neil Henry with probably the most experienced successor available, Ian Millward. Millward - son of Bob - has already won a couple of Super League titles with St Helens, so he'll have a few new aces up his sleeve to bring to the club too.

If they lose several experienced players, they could struggle and losing close games can become a worse habit for teams than getting flogged regularly.

So, giddyup Cowboys and bring your best to season 2007, because the GRL Phantom reckons the NRL needs teams with this amount of talent firing this year.


North Queensland
Coach: Graham Murray
Assistant Coach: Ian Millwood
CEO: Peter Parr

Gains: Jason Smith (Raiders), Scott Minto (Broncos), Toshio Laiseni (Sharks), Ben Vaeau (Broncos), Jackson Nicolau (Brisbane Norths)

Losses: Matt Sing (Hull), Josh Hannay (Sharks), Gavin Cooper (Titans), Brett Firman (Panthers), Clint Amos (Titans), Travis Norton (Retired), Mitchell Sargent (Knights), Brent McConnell (Broncos).

cowboys: Brenton Bowen, Mathew Bowen, Paul Bowman, Ray Cashmere, David Faiumu, Ben Farrar, Sione Faumuina, Ashley Graham, Mark Henry, Rod Jensen, Karl Johnson, Jacob Lillyman, Scott Minto, Jackson Nicolau, Luke O'Donnell, Aaron Payne, Mathew Scott, Jason Smith, Steven Southern, Johnathan Thurston, Shane Tronc, Carl Webb and Ty Williams.

Finishing Position Forecast:

GRL Phantom: 4th
Josh King: 5th - Read More, Here