SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES - MARCH 05: Roosters coach Trent Robinson watches on during a Sydney Roosters NRL training session at Kippax Lake on March 5, 2018 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

The incredible turnaround of the North Queensland Cowboys in 2022 has surprised almost everyone.

Somehow, the side that finished 2021 in 15th spot as the competition's worst defensive side has just booked itself a home preliminary final.

North Queensland have languished in the bottom eight since 2018. But head coach Todd Payten has managed to change their fortunes.

With the 2022 Cowboys in mind, we will explore eight other times in which teams have been able to climb from one end of the ladder to the other in a single season.


8. Wests Tigers - 2005

There are many unwritten rules in life: Never ask a woman her age or a man his income, and the Wests Tigers are probably going to finish ninth

This was exactly the case for Tim Sheens West Tigers outfit in 2004, when they were leapfrogged by the Raiders in the final week of the home and away season to miss finals for the fourth straight year since the club's inception.

That would change the following year when the Tigers would claim a spot in the top four ending the regular season with 14 wins and 10 losses.

The 2005 West Tigers were a side that played their own brand of electrifying football.

Former Queensland halfback Scott Prince would steer the ship while a young Benji Marshall would weave his magic.

The merger club had never played finals before but they claimed some serious scalps on their way to a maiden premiership.

Week 1 saw them put 50 points on the Cowboys, Week 2 they outclassed the Broncos 34 points to 6, only to send the St George Illawarra Dragons - who were heavy favourites - packing in the preliminary final.

They beat the Cowboys 30 - 16 in a grand final which is perhaps most famous for Marshall's audacious flick pass to Pat Richards that saw the Tigers run the length of the field.

Tim Sheens would claim the Dally M for coach of the year, with Benji Marshall and fullback Brett Hodgson also claiming a spot in the Dally M team of the year.

SYDNEY, NSW - OCTOBER 02: Scott Prince and Benji Marshall of the Tigers share a moment after winning the NRL Grand Final between the Wests Tigers and the North Queensland Cowboys at Telstra Stadium October 2, 2005 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)


  1. It.s your article, so I don’t want to be presumptuous. I’m also a Panthers’ supporter, so I will acknowledge my bias. It perhaps ranks somewhere between 3 and 5 – They didn’t have the bounce-back effect of internal drama like the Roosters in 3, but didn’t necessarily climb as far. However, they were also wooden spooners two years prior and sat in fifteenth in the second week of the 2003 season. Based on that, I’ll leave it to you to judge… but it certainly ranks 5 at least and I would argue higher.

  2. If I am honest the criteria for the rankings were kind of hard to pin down. Is it more impressive to come from 9th – 12th to win a prem or 13th – 16th and play deep into finals? Also how much do you factor in previous years in a one-year turnaround? Guess to some degree it’s quite subjective. Without delving too deep into the 02 Panthers I would say 03 Penrith is comparable to 13 Roosters so probably 4th or 5th.

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