The Cowboys have ended their 2019 trial preparations with a 14-6 win over a near full strength Melbourne Storm.
The win reportedly didn’t set the world on fire in terms of attacking brilliance but it did give an obvious preview as to the Cowboys’ 2019 gameplan, to bash their opponents.
The Cowboys lost arguably their biggest weapon after the Australia day long weekend as star recruit Ben Barba was kicked out of the game after a horrid off-field incident.
Barba was brought into the club to provide attacking flair in the absence of the recently retired Johnathan Thurston.
His signing was to usher in a new era in Townsville but due to his career ending errors the Cowboys now have to look for a different route to victory in 2019.
They did manage to sign a pretty handy replacement in Jordan Kahu who himself brings plenty to the club. That said, he isn’t Ben Barba.
Step forward the mega star Cowboys pack.
The Cowboys’ other big name recruit comes in the form of Maroons and Kangaroos number 13 Josh McGuire.
His arrival rounds out arguably the strongest forward pack in the game. In fact the run on forward pack will contain three current Queensland reps (two of which are current Kangaroos), a former Kangaroos bookend and arguably the best forward in the game. Add to that an Origin rep coming off the bench.
Josh McGuire was the run on lock for last week’s trial vs the Storm with Taumalolo pushing wide to partner Coen Hess in the back row.
I’d expect McGuire to shift into the front row, with Scott moving to the bench, allowing Cooper to slot into the second row where he set all sorts of try scoring records last season.
Taumalolo is the game’s best lock and will surely revert back there.
That said, it doesn’t really matter what the make up, this is one frightening Cowboys pack and one that I can’t see many opposition sides being able to over power.
The Cowboys game plan now looks very, very simple. Dominate in the middle and unleash the likes of Michael Morgan. Sounds solid enough to me.
Seriously though, how many forward packs can match up to this monster, all star pack?
The Roosters’ pack is dominant but lacks the star power. The Bunnies sans Angus Crichton come back to the pack a little. The Sharks are much weaker following the retirement of Luke Lewis and injury to Wade Graham. Outside of that, not even the mighty Storm can match these monsters.
Truthfully the Cowboys don’t have the most amazing one to five. I say that with the greatest of respect as this is far from a horrible side.
Te Maire Martin is a fair step down from the great Thurston, but honestly who isn’t?
That said, every player becomes far more dangerous behind a dominant forward pack. That is certainly the case with this side.
Jake Granville is a super talented number nine and very clever. His ability to get early ball where it needs to be was key to the Cowboys winning the title in 2015.
It’s one thing to have Thurston and Morgan calling the ball but you have to get it to them in a timely manner.
Michael Morgan played his best footy when he had the team at his disposal during the Thurston injury of 2017. I expect to see much of the same in 2019.
As I write this I’m suddenly double guessing my pre-season prediction that the Cows will finish 10th. On the back of this forward pack and mega star halfback, they look like a top eight side.
Like I said though, this will be a team that bashes and grinds opposition teams down rather than a side that blows its opponents off the park.
If there were a market for tackle busts the Cowboys forward pack would be $1.01 favourites.
Taumalolo, Hess, McClean. Yikes.
Gavin Cooper is the best try-scoring back rower in the game. Sure he won’t have the magic of Thurston laying on the opportunities this year but Michael Morgan isn’t exactly a park footballer.
Opposition defences better prepare for bruises and ice baths following fixtures against this side.
Judging by all reports from their trial win over the Storm they simply out muscled a pack containing the likes of Kaufusi, Bromwich and Finucane.
It’ll be a different ball game when the season proper kicks off but there’s no secret as to what’s coming for the Dragons in round one.