Jeff Dickinson-Fox reviews the campaign which saw Melbourne Storm crowned premiers in 2017.
4 days ago
Grand Final heroes fall short on the big stage - but pride remains.
The Cowboys in 2017 did what no Cowboys side has ever done - made the Grand Final without Johnathan Thurston or Matt Scott.
All year they were grimly hanging onto their top 8 spot on the ladder and very nearly lost it in the final Round.
They then won three straight unwinnable games to reach the Grand Final, but were not able to complete what would have been a most phenomenal season with a Grand Final victory.
Round 14 - For two reasons. It saw Thurston suffer a season ending injury but it was also the first time they ran up a convincing victory against a top contender, when they beat Parramatta 32-6. 11 of their next 13 games were decided by 12 points or less as the Cowboys had to quickly adapt to life without Thurston, going from a sleek attacking unit to a gritty hard working one.
Cowboys Forwards - Every one of the Cowboys forwards lifted their game considerably in 2017, largely to cover for the loss of Matt Scott but later to help lay a platform for Michael Morgan to work off the back of.
Execution - Too often, especially after the Origin period, the Cowboys struggled through the first half to complete sets, before finally clicking in the last half hour of the game.
Michael Morgan started out a little daunted by having to fill the immense shoes of Thurston but as the season wore on he slowly grew into the role before being one of the best players throughout the entire finals campaign, as he spearheaded the Cowboys astonishing run to the Grand Final. Jason Taumalolo was immense yet again as he took over the role of sole enforcer while Gavin Cooper was brilliant as he took over the captaincy.
The Northern Pride had a season of little joy, finishing third last, picking up just 6 wins from their 23 matches. In The NYC though, the Cowboys finished the season in fifth place, but bowed out in the first week of the finals as they lost 30-16 to the eighth placed Manly.
The brilliant performance of the Cowboys, especially during the vital finals campaign is enough to ensure they will be in the top 8 again next year. When you add Thurston and Scott back into that unit, it's easy to see why they will be regarded yet again as one of the top few teams of the competition. They will also welcome Storm front rower Jordan McLean to the side, which will further boost their already impressive forward pack