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2010 in review - North Queensland Cowboys (15th)
As the final siren sounded on Dairy Farmers Stadium North Queensland coach Neil Henry could do nothing but lean back and take a deep sigh of relief as he survived one of the Cowboys' most horrific seasons.
It was never going to be an easy assignment for Henry who entered the season without star fullback Matt Bowen but with the services of such players as Jonathan Thurston, Willie Tonga and Luke O'Donnell he certainly had enough resources to draw upon to guide the Cowboys much higher up on the ladder.
The season began slowly for the Cowboys who were unable to register a first half point until their Round 4 defeat of the Gold Coast Titans. In perhaps their finest performance the Cowboys players rallied together to overcome the previously undefeated Titans team, 32-18. While it's easy to accredit the win to the performances of Johnathan Thurston and Willie Tonga fans truly believed the result came with the selections of Gallant, Tupou and Thompson who breathed fresh air into the Cowboys campaign. Thompson in particular appears to be a player the Cowboys have been after since the acquisition of Thurston and his efforts in both attack and defence were dually noted by both commentators and fans alike.
Unfortunately for the Cowboys this success didn't last long. A week later they fell to 2005 grand final rivals the West Tigers and to make matters worse inspirational captain, Johnathan Thurston, sustained a shoulder injury that would hinder him for the rest of 2010 and keep his availability in limbo.
The Cowboys would go onto lose four more matches until the return of Matt Bowen saw the Cowboys claim the scalp of a very disappointing Roosters outfit in a low quality Monday night game at the SFS. However the return of Bowen wouldn't be enough for the Cowboys as they relapsed and put in more sub-par efforts.
These efforts obviously got the better of Thurston who took his frustration out on referee Ben Cummins in a heated exchange at Townsville. This landed the talented halfback in hot water with the Rugby League community who demanded he be reprimanded for his colourful rant. He was later charged but found not guilty based on a technicality but the damage had already been done to Thurston's reputation, whose captaincy began to be called into question.
Things didn't fare much better for the Cowboys on the field as they slumped to a shocking record of losses, winning only two out of fourteen games to finish the season. Amongst all those defeats stands two that will go down as the worst in the club's history including a 22-20 loss to the Bulldogs that was so diabolically bad the police were called into investigate a match fixing allegation.
Despite all this drama the most disappointing aspect of the Cowboys season is the fact that a number of positives were overshadowed in 2010. The performances of individual players such as Mat Scott, Scott Bolton and Anthony Watts who enjoyed their best seasons to date to the redemption of loud-mouth Willie Mason truly need to be acknowledged.
Junior Kiwi Jason Taumololo created history when he became the youngest player to represent the North Queensland Cowboy, he is joined by Michael Morgan, Dane Hogan and Ray Thompson as future leaders of the club.
Speaking of the future, there is a strong sense that the club will turn it all around in 2011. This comes on the back of a number of player signings as well as management changes. It's with this new and bold direction that the Cowboys will finally ascend the ladder and remind everybody why it's so cool to be a Cowboy.
The vital stats
Played: 24 matches (2 byes)
Won: 5 matches
Lost: 19 matches
Points for: 425 points
Points against: 667 points
Points differential: -242 points
Top pointscorer: Jonathan Thurston (halfback) 95 points
Top tryscorer: Willie Tonga (centre) 12 tries
Club player of the year