Written by Oliver Kellner-Dunk
We often hear about the troubles surrounding certain sides such as the Tigers, Eels, Broncos, or Bulldogs during a time of crisis, and understandably so as traditional clubs and clubs in a big market often go under the microscope as the intrigue from a wider demographic is apparent.
However, there is one team in particular that is arguably going through a bigger time of crisis than any of the aforementioned clubs over the past five years that hasn’t had the same media attention as the others.
The club in question are the North Queensland Cowboys who have finished in the bottom four on the NRL ladder every year since 2018 and aren’t being favoured to do much better in 2022, in fact, there is a good chance that this is the year they finally hit rock bottom and win their first wooden spoon since 2000.
In recent years the Cowboys have invested millions of dollars into contracts that quite simply have just not worked out for them.
Jason Taumalolo’s $10 million contract to be paid over ten years that was signed in 2017 would have to be the most famous example of this, with the 28-year-old proving value for money at first but being unable to do so recently through injury and a limitation on his game time.
Dreaming of Grand Final glory 🏆 #UNREAL
— NRL (@NRL) March 15, 2022
Michael Morgan signed a five-year contract extension with the club in 2018 for what was believed to be around $1 million per season but would go on to consistently deal with injury before being medically retired in early 2021.
At the end of 2019, Valentine Holmes signed a deal with the Cowboys believed to be worth a little over $5,000,000 overall for six years after not playing a competitive Rugby League game for over a year.
He was expected to transition into a star fullback upon his return but has since been moved permanently to the role of a centre “with the freedom to roam”.
These deals were risky investments that in the end have not paid off as the Cowboys have not even looked like a top-eight team for a while now and do not have the same kind of war chest as the Bulldogs or Broncos had to commence a legitimate rebuild.
Griffin Neame named in make his season debut in Saturday's clash against the Raiders.
— NQ Cowboys (@nthqldcowboys) March 15, 2022
Hamiso Tabuai Fidow, Reece Robson, and some other young players are showing that there is still some hope for the club but with both of those players off contract at the end of 2023, one must wonder if the Cowboys will be able to afford to keep them along with other prospects, especially if they are looking for a pay rise.
When looking at how the Cowboys started the season against the Bulldogs in round one there aren’t many positives that can be taken out of their performance as they completed sets at just 68%, made nine ineffective tackles, 12 errors and conceded seven penalties during their loss.
It’s only early days but after round 1 the wooden spoon goes to the North Queensland Cowboys.
After round one, who gets the spoon in your opinion?