Introducing the North Queensland Cowboys

When Johnathan Thurston kicked the sensational golden point drop goal that secured the 2015 NRL premiership for North Queensland, it was a ‘boy’s own’ triumph for a club celebrating its 21st year in the competition and the region it represents, which is a vast part of Australia that is truly a heartland of the sport.

The Cowboys' – under former international and origin half back Paul Green – enjoyed their best-ever regular season with a club record 11-game winning streak and finishing with a club record 17 wins despite a slow start.

Now they are aiming to become the first team in World Club Challenge history to win with the same squad that captured the previous domestic title.

“From a recruitment and retention point of view, we're pretty stable. It gives us that continuity to keep building from what we did last year,” said Green, who made his name at Cronulla. “It's a big game in our club's history. We've never played in a game like this.”

Cowboy’s co-captains are Johnathan Thurston and Matt Scott.
 
THE ENGINE ROOM
 
Matt Scott is one of the most consistent props in world rugby, having made 17 appearances for his country, pulled on the Maroon shirt of Queensland 19 times – including seven out of eight series wins – and made over 200 NRL appearances for his sole club.

Strapping James Tamou was born in New Zealand and played for the Maori’s, making a try-scoring debut for North Queensland off the bench in 2009. Selected for New South Wales in 2012, he has played for them 11 times, the same number as for the Kangaroos, including being part of their 2013 World Cup winning side.
Vaai ‘Jason’ Taumalolo has one of the most cosmopolitan backgrounds of any rugby player having played for the Australian Schoolboys, Queensland U18s, Junior Kiwis, Tonga – including a try against Cook Islands in the 2013 World Cup at Leigh – and made four appearances for the Kiwis. He was the youngest player to make his debut for North Queensland aged 17 years and 81 days in 2010 and has been referred to as the new Sonny Bill. Last season he was the Dally M loose forward of the year.

Under-rated Gavin Cooper has had two spells at the club, beginning in 2006, and scored 40 tries in 116 appearances. He was part of the PMXIII in 203 and was in fine form again at the recent Auckland 9s,
 
THE STRIKE FORCE
 
Potential Scotland international, alongside team mate Kane Linnett, former Australian Schoolboy, Lachlan Coote has now made the full-back berth his own after arriving from Penrith and overcoming several serious injuries.
Local boy Kyle Feldt, from Townsville, will be forever remembered for scoring the try in the corner after the hooter had gone to level the Grand Final, one of 18 touchdowns in 22 appearances which includes a hat-trick against New Zealand Warriors in the penultimate round last season. He has been included in both Emerging Maroons and QLD Residents squads.

Seven time Samoan international winger Antonio Winterstein joined from Brisbane and finished last season as the Cowboys' top try scorer, with a career-high 16.

Centre Justin O’Neill now has two Grand Final rings, his first with Melbourne and played in the 2013 World Club Challenge win over the Rhinos here.
 
THE BALL HANDLERS        
 
2015 was a truly astonishing season in a stellar career that almost ensures icon Jonathan Thurston as a future Immortal. A Grand Final winner with Canterbury early on, last year saw the Kangaroos and Queensland talisman win a record fourth Dally M Award, become the first player to pick up a third Golden Boot at a ceremony here last Thursday and win the man of the match award in the Grand Final – the Clive Churchill Medal – for his astonishing feats in it.

Outside him, Michael Morgan brilliantly fashioned the last gasp saving try in the NRL decider to cap a sensational year. He rose through the ranks of the Townsville rugby league to make his Cowboys debut in 2012, was selected in the Maroons Origin expanded squad in 2014 and made his full debut the following year.
Ever-present hooker Jake Granville set up the first two tries in the Grand Final for the Cowboys, sending in O’Neill and Tamou. He was voted their Player's Player of the Year and finished runner-up in the Player of the Year voting, falling one point short of Thurston. He recently extended his contract with the Cowboys to the end of 2018.
 
THE STATS
 
Current home ground record – 30,302 v Brisbane, 1300SMILES Stadium (Rd 8, 1999)
Biggest winning margin – 64-6 v Wests Tigers, 1300SMILES Stadium (Rd 22, 2014)
Most tries in a match – 4 Ray Mercy v Balmain, 1300SMILES Stadium (Rd 2, 1998)
Most points in a match – 24 Johnathan Thurston (3T, 6G) Suncorp Stadium (Rd 1, 2006) & (2T, 8G) 1300SMILES Stadium (Rd 3, 2006) / Josh Hannay (1T, 10G), 1300SMILES Stadium (Rd 24, 2003)
Most tries in a season – 22 Matthew Bowen in 27 games, 2007
Most points in a season – 234 Johnathan Thurston in 24 games, 2014 (11 tries, 93 goals, 4 drop goals)
Most tries for the club – 130 Matthew Bowen in 270 games – also the highest number of appearances
Most points for the club – 1544 Johnathan Thurston in 214 games (69 tries, 631 goals, 8 drop goals)
 
THE 6 THINGS YOU MIGHT NOT KNOW
 

  • In 2014, North Queensland celebrated its league centenary; it was in May 1914 that three rugby union clubs in the Cowboys home city base of Townsville decided to adopt the new code.
  • In modern times, exceptional players from the region of sugar caners, miners and wharfies include Kerry Boustead, Gene Miles and Greg Dowling.
  • The Grant Bell coached, Laurie Spina captained Cowboys ran on to what was then known as Stockland Stadium on 11 March, 1995, for their NRL debut, losing 32-16 to Canterbury.
  • Michael Morgan’s selection for Queensland made him the first third-generation interstate player for them at senior level, his grandfather being NQ great Duncan McIvor.
  • The inaugural secretary of the NQRL, a former referee Arthur Fadden, later went on to become Prime Minister of Australia.
  • In their 21 seasons, the Cowboys have had eight coaches: Grant Bell, Graham Lowe, Tim Sheens, Murray Hurst, Graham Murray, Ian Millward, Neil Henry and Paul Green