A KICKSTART TO GLORY
Near miss the catalyst as Cowboys dream of fairytale
IT WAS close to 11pm on the night of August 31 and the lights had dimmed on the North Queensland Cowboys in every possible way.
A 20-10 loss to the Broncos in Townsville in their final home-and-away game had left the Cowboys all but shunted out of the competition.
Bookmakers offered 100-1 odds of them being premiers and considered anyone bold enough to take it was throwing away their money.
But in the shadows, one man could sense a giant stirring. Cowboys coach Paul Green was walking in neardarkness behind the club dressing rooms when a visiting journalist offered condolences about the loss and was surprised by the reply.
“The thing is,’’ Green noted with the mixed tone of a man feeling optimism and regret in equal measure, “we are so close to getting right. So close. We can win this competition if only we can just get the chance’’.
But that chance seemed gone. The Cowboys’ season would have been over if the Dragons beat the Bulldogs two days later. However, an upset Bulldogs win catapulted the Cowboys into the finals with the mindset of a punter given free chips to bet with at the casino. Every player has a different story to a moment of inspiration that turned the Cowboys’ season.
For captain Gavin Cooper it was the simple exhilaration of reaching the finals after initially not even bothering to watch most of the BulldogsDragons game.
“I was having fish and chips with my boys, and my wife, for Father’s Day,’’ Cooper said.
“I checked the score with 15 minutes to go and thought I’d better watch the last little bit on my phone. “It’s a funny afternoon when your fate is resting in someone else’s hands. That was the first little bit of luck we’ve had this year and we’ll run with it.”
Within 24 hours, Cooper had rushed to Sydney for the captain’s finals launch and decided his team would live by the mantra “why not us?’’ during its finals campaign.
For goalkicking backrower Ethan Lowe, the watershed moment came before the preliminary final against the Eels when he had several disastrous practice goal kicks that wobbled off his boot as if they were struck by a drunken sailor.
Disaster beckoned, but then came the comforting voice of sidelined goalkicking great Johnathan Thurston, who provided a few instant tips that helped Lowe kick four from four later that day.
“I had a couple of shockers (in practice),’’ Lowe told the Players Voice website.
“They missed by miles. At
that point, you’re usually isolating in your mind what went wrong and trying like hell to make sure you don’t repeat those mistakes in a live game situation.
“That’s magnified even more in a knockout game.
“Fortunately for me, I had one of the greatest pressure kickers in history watching me.’’
For the gifted Michael Morgan, the turning point, not simply in his season but his career, came in April when Cooper Cronk, ironically his opponent tomorrow, sat him down and told him it was time for him to be bold and unleash the stronger voice within him. Take charge. Lead the way. Be the man. “I went away from that chat and just sort of said I’ve got to pull my finger out a bit,’’ said Morgan, whose game has since surged to stratospheric heights.
Morgan could not be more of a Cowboy if he rode on to the ground on a wild steer. He was raised within eyeshot of the Cowboys homeground and at match nights was allowed to watch the pre-match fireworks before heading to bed. Now he provides the fireworks himself and, if he can provide them in Sydney tomorrow for an upset win, it will be one of the greatest days of his life.
THEIR RODEO: Gavin Cooper was enjoying Father’s Day with his family when he realised the Cowboys were in the finals; the team had lost its last regular season game to the Broncos 20-10; but coach Paul Green still believed the Cowboys could win if they just had a chance.