NRL Rd 4 - Cowboys v Sharks
TOWNSVILLE, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 06: Francis Molo of the Cowboys looks on during the round four NRL match between the North Queensland Cowboys and the Cronulla Sharks at QCB Stadium on June 06, 2020 in Townsville, Australia. (Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)

Predicted Finish: 6th

Actual Finish: 14th

Yikes. For mine the Cowboys were the biggest disappointments of 2020. I thought, on the back of the Holmes signing, they were finals bound. Taumalolo, Morgan, Holmes. Who could stop that fire power? Turns out almost everyone. They were awful from start to finish and it cost premiership winning coach Paul Green his position.

Highlights

Relatively good start: Despite finishing the seasons with just the three wins, the Cowboys actually started the season with two wins from their opening three fixtures.

After dropping a close game to the Broncos, they rebounded by beating the Bulldogs and Titans in convincing fashion. The 36-6 win over the Titans looked like it was a preview of what was to come as the Cows ran riot. Six tries to one. Eight line breaks to three. 66% possession. Taumalolo made almost double the metres of the Titans best forward while star recruit Val Holmes laid on three try assists.

The Cowboys looked set to at least somewhat justify their pre-season hype. Unfortunately it would not last.

Kyle Feldt try scoring: Kyle Feldt looked set to claim the NRL top try scorer gong after a hat-trick in his Round 20 clash with the Broncos. His total of 19 tries had him clear of the likes of Johnston, Katoa and Nofoaluma.

He celebrated his third try as if it were a brilliant way to end an otherwise terrible season, and if not for a Johnston masterclass against the hapless Roosters, he would have finished top of the list.

His eight tries in the final five games made him one of the form wingers of the competition. He was right in the Origin scene until injury ruled him out.

Lowlights

Holmes Signing: Long term I still believe that Valentine Holmes will have a successful career at the Cowboys, but I also think it’s fair to say that Holmes’ 2020 was pretty poor.

He was signed on monster money to be the club’s No.1 for as long as he wanted the role. Unfortunately fitness issues and a series of errors saw him not live up to expectations. He was even shifted to the wing on two occasions as well as mid game a few times.

Four tries in 12 games isn’t atrocious reading but it was not what was expected from the try scoring freak. Fair to say he’ll be looking for a much bigger 2021.

Michael Morgan Injury: A personal one here. As a huge fan of Michael Morgan, it was extremely unfortunate not to see the genuine star at his best in 2020 due to injury.

He was only able to run out six times this season for the Cowboys, with the final game of his season ending after just 14 minutes. Hopefully a long off-season will see him return to his destructive best. To say the Cowboys missed him is putting it lightly.

Defense. What defense?: The Cowboys struggled to score points in 2020, with only five sides scoring less points than them. 18.4 points per game is going to win you plenty of close contests, unless you defend like the 2020 Cowboys.

Only the disgustingly bad Broncos conceded more points this year. Scoring 18 is ok as long as you’re not conceding 26 points per game. 520 points conceded, including a seven-game stretch where 20 points conceded was their best effort.

You can’t play finals footy with those kind of stats unless you’re scoring 40 points regularly. Not what you expect from a line up of this quality.

Star Player: Jason Taumalolo

There was only one choice here, despite the odd brilliant game from the likes of a Holmes or Clifford. Jason Taumalolo is still the game’s premier number 13.

An average of 207 metres per game in a badly beaten forward pack is incredible. 53 tackle breaks, an incredible 1407 post contact metres and 91% tackle efficiency.

The Tongan megastar simply could not have done more for his club in 2020.

Season Grading: F

This was a squad VERY capable of playing finals footy. Morgan, Holmes, and Taumalolo are genuine stars. Game breakers. Match winners. Holmes was well below par, Morgan injured for the majority of the season and Taumalolo left to play a lone hand far too often.

McGuire’s season was awful, Hess was up and down, Drinkwater looked far better at fullback, and Jake Granville almost completely disappeared.

For this side to finish with five wins, a huge points differential and outside of the finals positions in a shortened season simply isn’t good enough. Paul Green was let go halfway through the season. What a fall from grace.

Josh Hannay was thrown to the wolves and could only muster two victories during his short tenure. No blame placed on the new Sharks assistant coach as he was served an absolute mess.

The Cowboys have their coach for 2021 but have not signed anyone of note. They’ve lost Asiata and Cooper. The entire off-season will be spent getting Michael Morgan right and ensuring Holmes hits the ground running.

As for 2020? It’s very difficult to find many positives from this train wreck season. I perhaps had them rated a little highly compared to most but this side should have finished closer to finals than the spoon.

They did not.