TOWNSVILLE, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 08: Michael Morgan of the Cowboys looks on during the round 13 NRL match between the North Queensland Cowboys and the Manly Sea Eagles at 1300SMILES Stadium on June 08, 2019 in Townsville, Australia. (Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)

Pre-Season Prediction: 9th

Actual Finish: 14th

Highlights

Beating both Grand Finalists: It’s incredible to imagine, given that the Cowboys only managed nine wins in 2019 that two came against the eventual Grand Finalists… Away from home.

In round 17 they beat the defending/eventual Premiers the Roosters 15-12. Only Tedesco was absent in an otherwise full-strength team.

Back in round 11 the Cowboys upset the Raiders, in Canberra, 22-16.

Those two games were proof of what this side was capable of on it’s day.

Preparing for 2020 early: Scott Drinkwater was a brilliant mid-season pick up. He immediately solved the club’s issues in the number one and now looks set for a switch into the halves.

After literally over a year of chasing, the Cowboys finally got their man when they announced the signing of Valentine Holmes.

With Holmes comes a rep player at every level and one of the game’s most explosive players.

He’ll take some time to readjust after spending over 12 months transforming his body to chase a temporary NFL dream.

The Cowboys solved two major issues just as pre-season training was beginning which gives them as much time as possible to adjust.

Low Lights

Ben Barba: The Cowboys knew signing Ben Barba was a risk but given the fact his last NRL game was leading the Sharks to a 2016 Premiership, and his stint in the ESL wasn’t too bad either, the risk seemed worth it.

Unfortunately the club’s new number one couldn’t even make it to round one before being released in disgrace.

I won’t go into it but the events, of his own doing, on Australia day both ended his career and also put the one club that took a chance on him in a horror position.

Horror Start (and finish): All eyes were on how the Cowboys were going to fare post the retirement of their greatest ever.

Despite a first-up win over the Dragons, the Cowboys endured an awful start to the season and new era.

Three big losses would follow, including a loss to rivals the Broncos, while it took until round 8 to record another win.

The Cowboys would ride a three-game win streak between rounds 10 and 12 but would only win three games after their round 16 bye.

Stars Falter: Much was expected, as always, of the Cowboys stars players. Given the retirement of a certain halfback, the likes of Morgan, Granville and co were going to have to step up and star.

Unfortunately, that was not to be as the majority of the Cowboys biggest names, outside of Taumalolo and at times Morgan, simply didn’t lift.

Coen Hess not only lost his once near-automatic Origin selection but he became better known for memes and nicknames than big plays toward the end of the 2019 season.

Truthfully Green did him no favours with moves such as marking one of the game’s speedsters Bronson Xerri in the centres.

Granville failed to spark the side as he had in previous seasons. Gavin Cooper struggled at times now that his all-time combo with JT had been broken.

Morgan showed moments of absolute brilliance but didn’t reach top gear nearly enough.

It’s tough to blame a core group for a clubs failures but the natural reaction to poor results is to look to those in the biggest contracts.

They probably didn’t have the supporting cast but more was expected by the Cowboys big-name stars.

Star Player: Jason Taumalolo

For everything said above, one man whose name cannot be lumped into that group is Jason Taumalolo.

Over his 18 appearances, he would average just under 200 metres gained and made over 1220 post-contact metres in the season.

Far from stat-padding, Taumalolo managed these numbers with under 17 hit-ups per game. That’s an insane average metres per run ratio.

Season Grading: D

The Cowboys avoid an F here based purely on the fact that pre-season expectations weren’t overly high.

Truthfully this side is too good to be drawn into a battle to avoid the bottom few spots on the ladder and probably should have played finals.

The Barba incident set them back in a big way although the signing of Drinkwater solved their fullback woes.

As previously mentioned, too many players didn’t live up to expectations to launch any sort of genuine finals charge.

The forwards were way too reliant on Taumalolo while the throw it to Morgan and hope game plan did not work.

The Cows have signed very well for 2020 and have a brilliant new stadium to unveil in round one.

They’ll be looking to move on from a subpar 2019 season as soon as possible.