With the NRL Grand Final on Sunday night it’s time to start looking ahead, starting with a look at each team’s chances of taking home the NRL Premiership. We kick things off with five reasons the Cowboys will win their maiden Premiership this weekend.
1. Johnathon Thurston
Without doubt Johnathon Thurston (JT) is amongst the best players ever and will be the next immortal. He is the ultimate competitor and he has stated that he wants to win a Premiership for North Queensland. Now is the time as they will not get a better opportunity.
Paul Green has the Cowboys playing with speed and power, an exciting brand of football where attack is the key and Johnathon Thurston is the mastermind. Thurston has a very sharp football brain and he knows that there are defensive weaknesses in the Broncos, especially in the centres. Reed and Hodges are not the fastest players going around and they will struggle against the Cowboys speed men who will be well served with early ball by Thurston.
There are some concerns about his groin injury, but even a half fit Thurston is still a great player. Win, lose or draw Thurston will give it everything in this game and will be one of the best players, if not the best.
2. The all important spine
The players with numbers 9, 7, 6 and 1 on the backs of their jerseys have been shown to be highly influential in premiership outcomes. In the grand final we have McCullough, Hunt, Milford and Boyd for the Broncos up against Granville, Thurston, Morgan and Coote for the Cowboys.
Any team with Johnathon Thurston in it has a distinct advantage and now the Cowboys have players to compliment his playing style. Granville had a fairly average game against the Broncos in their 16-12 defeat in the qualifying final. He said that he struggled with the pace a bit. Paul Green has been using the reliable Rory Kostjasyn of late to give Granville a rest during games. This appears to be working very well and against the Storm it was evident that Granville had his confidence back and looked very dangerous. Look for him to run from dummy half when the opportunity presents itself.
Here the Cowboys present the two current Australian prop forwards in Matt Scott and James Tamou and how good are these two going at the moment? They are ably supported by Jason Taumalolo, Ethan Lowe, Gavin Cooper, Ben Hannant et al. They have a distinct advantage in size in this area. The last time these two teams met the Broncos won 16-12 in the qualifying final, a game many regard as the best of the year. Even though the Cowboys lost this game their forwards dominated for long periods and were able to roll down field quite easily.
In their last two games against the Storm and Sharks the Cowboys pack has completely dominated, and these two teams had very well credentialed forward packs boasting the likes of Paul Gallen, Andrew Fifita and Jesse Bromwich.
4. Broncos defence
The Broncos have shown they possess one of the best defences in the competition. This is particularly true for their goal line defence.
Points can be scored against the Broncos through long range attacking movements; this is an area that the Cowboys excel in. In particular Michael Morgan who is big, strong and fast and as shown against the Storm he is playing a bit wider and he will be a handful especially for Reed, Milford et al.
My key players in the grand final are Michael Morgan and Lachlan Coote. They are playmakers and the Cowboys could not win with Johnathon Thurston being their sole organiser. Coote has had an outstanding year and he offers so much to the Cowboys. Paul Green has him playing a roving role and he pops up a lot on the left side when the Cowboys are in attack as he possesses a great left foot kicking game which really compliments Thurston’s role.
Hunt and Milford for the Broncos are brilliant halves and had outstanding games against the Roosters. The Roosters did not, or failed to target these two in defence. Thurston and company will have the big Cowboy forwards running at them and they will be forced to make a lot of tackles. Then out wide we have Jack Reed, Blake Ferguson for the Roosters had him at sixes and sevens and he looked completely outclassed. Without doubt the Johnathon Thurston, Michael Morgan and Ethan Lowe combination will attempt to exploit Jack Reed. Expect big games from Lowe and Morgan.
5. No home ground advantage
This year the Cowboys have shown they can win away from home. They have ten victories away from Townsville and playing at the ANZ Stadium will not phase them, even though they have a poor record at this ground.
Neutral support will be for the Cowboys and they will have the crowd support in this game. Thurston will not let this game slip away.