By Jack Brady
Coach Neil Henry called it a “pretty ugly performance all round” and co-captain Matthew Scott noted “a reserve grade side would’ve beating us”.
Many words come to mind after watching the Cowboys kick off the 2012 National Rugby League campaign: pitiful, error-riddled, hopeless even wooden spoon specials.
Their game against last year’s wooden spooners the Gold Coast ended in an 18-0 capitulation, but it should’ve been much worse.
The stats don’t lie, by full-time the Cowboys had committed 26 errors and finished with the worst ever ball control stats since it was first recorded it in 2008- 43 per cent.
The question now is: why did this happen?
Last season, North Queensland only lost six games before Round 20 and were one of the competition’s successful clubs while playing at home (75 per cent) at Dairy Farmers Stadium.
Fast-forward to last weekend’s game in Townsville and the Cowboys couldn’t even put a single point on the board against the Titans.
Where did they go so wrong?
The Cowboys signed Kane Linnett and Robert Lui this year and only lost one regular in Willie Tonga to the Eels.
They had no excuses to play that poorly and in retrospect the Cowboys problems may have been caused by Australian and Queensland halfback Johnathan Thurston.
Thurston is one of the best players in rugby league, a former Dally M winner and one of the Cowboys greatest ever.
Last weekend he played at five-eighth, not his preferred position of halfback.
Since joining the club in 2005, the Cowboys have won a third of their games he hasn’t played. Thurston is the Cowboys.
Yet last weekend, with the usual expectations heaped on his shoulders, he faltered in an unfamiliar position and ended the game with several costly errors.
It was a very ‘un-Thurston’ like performance for a usual clinical club legend: he missed thee tackles and made an unforeseeable five errors. It hurt his team and the Cowboys paid the price for it