What is going on in North Queensland?
Last September Paul Green and his Cowboys penned what might go down as one of the great unfinished sporting fairytales.
In the absence of Johnathan Thurston and Matt Scott, the team rejigged and somehow managed to navigate a path that led to ANZ on Grand Final day – roughly two years to the day that they snagged their maiden NRL Premiership.
All was swell in the North and they were heavily backed to do it again this year.
And why not? They boasted a roster at the start of 2018 that included the previously named Thurston and Scott to go with a squad that resembled the Grand Final heroes of 2015.
Twelve rounds into season 2018 and the Cows sit fifteenth on the ladder with a woeful 3-9 win/loss record.
In my relatively short life, I can’t remember ever seeing a team with so many elite players have to negotiate so many of said players experiencing form slumps at the one time. It’s as if they spend so much time with one another that their form clocks have synchronised; once one goes, all go.
JT looks old and battered and, to echo Greg Alexander’s words, it honestly looks as if the great seven may have gone one season too long.
2016 Dally M Medal winner Jason Taumalolo has improved in recent weeks but has, by and large, been unable to recapture the form that saw him heralded as the game’s most threatening forward.
During a broadcast of ABC program Offsiders on Sunday Morning, Roy Masters suggested that Michael Morgan’s form is currently so bad that Kevin Walters couldn’t possibly select him in his Origin 17. Although Morgan will don the number 14 jersey for Game 1, Masters has a point – last year’s Dally M runner up has been nothing short of woeful.
Paul Green’s decision to shift Morgan to fullback to cover the injured Lachlan Coote has done nothing more than allow another out of sorts player to find his way into the side. Te Maire Martin, who was branded as the next Benji Marshall when Penrith bought him from the Tigers, looked like he wasn’t quite first grade standard against Melbourne on Friday.
Throw in Matt Scott’s continued injury concerns, Jake Granville’s slide into predictability and Coen Hess’ failure to continue his trajectory of the past few seasons and boy oh boy you start to wonder what’s in the water up North.
I have no doubt that Paul Green is an elite standard coach and the club’s decision to re-sign him seemed, at the time, to be a good one, but when the whole team is underperforming you need to start asking the uncomfortable questions.
What is going on behind the scenes that has reduced North Queensland’s star studded playing roster to a Thursday afternoon OzTag side?