North Queensland Cowboys
The North Queensland Cowboys are an Australian professional rugby league football club based in Townsville, the largest city in North Queensland. They compete in Australia's premier rugby league competition, the National Rugby League (NRL).
|Full name||North Queensland Cowboys|
Rugby League Football Club
|Founded||30 November 1992|
|Competition||National Rugby League|
|Runners-up||2 (2005, 2017)|
|World Club Challenge||1 (2016)|
|NRL Nines||1 (2014)|
|Wooden spoons||3 (1995, 1997 (SL), 2000)|
|Most capped||294 - Johnathan Thurston|
|Highest points scorer||2,182 - Johnathan Thurston|
Since their foundation in 1995, the club has appeared in three grand finals (2005, 2015 and 2017) winning in 2015, and has reached the finals ten times. The team's management headquarters and home ground, North Queensland Stadium, currently known as Queensland Country Bank Stadium due to sponsorship rights, are located in the suburb of South Townsville.
The Cowboys were admitted to the premiership for the 1995 ARL season. They played in the breakaway Super League competition in 1997 before continuing to compete in the re-unified National Rugby League competition the following year. After running into financial trouble in 2001, the club was taken over by News Limited. In 2007, the team was sold by News Limited to the Cowboys Leagues Club.
With the success of the Broncos in 1988, speculation intensified as to if the NSWRL would admit a new team based in North Queensland. In 1993, the NSWRL announced that North Queensland would enter the competition in 1995, along with three other new sides. One of the major difficulties that faced the club in their early years was attracting followers from the more established Queensland-based Winfield Cup side, the Brisbane Broncos. This was exacerbated by an initial lack of onfield success and stability. In their first two seasons, the Cowboys had eight different captains and finished last in their inaugural season.
1997: Super League
After much court action in 1995 and 1996, a ten team Super League competition was held in 1997. The Cowboys competed in this competition, and their squad was bolstered by a number of new signings including Ian Roberts and Steve Walters. However, they were unable to improve on the club's results in previous years, and for the second time in three seasons they were to finish the season in last place.
The Cowboys first game of the Super League season, a 24–16 win over new team the Adelaide Rams played on 1 March at Stockland Stadium in front of 17,738 fans was also the first ever game of the Super League's competition.
1998–1999: National Rugby League
In 1998 the Super League and Australian Rugby League competitions merged to form the National Rugby League (NRL). The Cowboys began their first season in this competition strongly, and after six rounds they were in equal first place. Although they fell away later in the season, they were to record the largest come-back to date in an Australian first grade rugby league match, defeating the Penrith Panthers 36–28 after trailing 26–0 at half-time. 1998 also saw the Cowboys record their largest loss to date, being defeated 62–0 by the North Sydney Bears in the last round of the home and away season.
The Cowboys signed their eleventh captain in 1999, Noel Goldthorpe. Paul Bowman was also to serve in that role during the season. Although their on-field performances were not spectacular, continuing high attendance figures saw aggregate attendances exceed one million spectators. This season the Cowboys also provided their first State of Origin representative when Paul Green was selected as Queensland's halfback for game 2 of the 1999 State of Origin series.
2000–2003: Improved results
In the years 2000 through to 2002 the Cowboys continued to struggle with off-field dramas and poor on-field performances. After finishing last in 2000, season 2001 began slowly. Tim Sheens resigned on 25 May and was replaced by his then assistant Murray Hurst. 4 straight losses in the opening rounds of 2002 led to Hurst being replaced early in the 2002 season, by former Illawarra Steelers and Leeds Rhinos coach Graham Murray. Murray stamped his authority and coaching prowess on the club and the NQ Cowboys looked far more competitive towards the end of the 2002 season. The Cowboys spent much of the 2003 season in the top eight with much improved performances from a host of players, including local talents Matt Bowen and Josh Hannay. The 2003 season ended with the Cowboys four points adrift of a top eight play-off position.
2004: First time finalists
After a slow start to the season that saw them at 13th on the ladder with just one win and five losses, the Cowboys turned it around in the second half of the season to finish with 12 wins and 11 losses and 7th spot, giving the club their first ever top eight appearance.
The Cowboys fairytale year continued when they upset the 2nd place Bulldogs away from home in the first week of the finals, 30–22, thanks largely to hat-trick hero Matt Sing. The following week the Cowboys defeated their state rivals the Brisbane Broncos at home, 10–0, in perhaps the club's most famous victory.
They ended up falling one game short of the grand final, losing to the Sydney Roosters, 19–16.
2005: Grand finalists
The Cowboys would go one better in 2005, when they reached their first grand final in club history. With the help of new recruits Carl Webb and Johnathan Thurston, the side finished in 5th spot and with back-to-back finals appearances. They would ultimately lose the grand final to the Wests Tigers.
2006–2007: Further improvement
In 2006, the Cowboys started the year with a 6-game winning streak and looked destined for another finals appearance, before ending the season with just 5 wins from 19 games and finishing in 9th position.
The 2007 season saw the Cowboys 3rd finals appearance and their first top 4 finish. They faced the Bulldogs in Townsville in week 1 of the finals, scraping home by 2 points. The following week, they defeated the Warriors at home by 37 points. They fell one game short of the grand final again, this time losing to Manly, 28–6. 2007 saw the retirement of club legend Paul Bowman, who took up a coaching role with the team in 2008.
Johnathan Thurston finished the year with his second Dally M Medal and Matt Bowen was named Dally M Fullback of the Year.
2008–2010: Struggling seasons
At the start of the 2008 season, the club announced head coach Graham Murray's contract would not be renewed. After only winning three of the first ten games, Murray resigned from his job and the club promoted assistant coach Ian Millward to the head coaching role for the rest of the year. During his stint as head coach, the club could only win two more games. Throughout the season the team were decimated by injuries and suspensions as well as off-field issues. In the end, the Cowboys finished 15th on the ladder avoiding the wooden spoon by for and against.
2009 saw the appointment of Neil Henry as head coach, who had won the Dally M Coach of the Year with the Canberra Raiders the previous year. The club however experienced another disappointing season, finishing 12th with 11 wins and 13 losses. 2009 also saw Matthew Bowen score his 100th try, becoming the first Cowboy to score 100 tries for the club and the debut of future Australian and New South Wales representative forward James Tamou.
The beginning out the 2010 season was marred with the speculation of whether Johnathan Thurston would renew his contract with the club. Thurston ended up re-signing for another three seasons, however it brought very little success. The club finished 15th and would have received the wooden spoon if not for the Melbourne Storm salary cap scandal. 2010 saw the emergence of Scott Bolton and seeing the test debut of Matthew Scott. Jason Taumalolo became the Cowboys youngest ever debutant, making his debut against the Canterbury Bulldogs in round 24 aged 17 years and 82 days.
2011–2013: Return to the Finals
After missing the finals for the last 3 seasons the Cowboys underwent a major overhaul of personnel for the 2011 season. Club legend Ty Williams retired and they parted ways with club favourites Luke O'Donnell, Carl Webb and Steve Southern. Their biggest signing for the 2011 season was Queensland and Australian representative centre Brent Tate. They also made key recruits in the signings of former Melbourne Storm and Queensland State of Origin representative Dallas Johnson and premiership winner Glenn Hall from the English Super League, re-signing a former Cowboy in Gavin Cooper and picking up younger, experienced first graders such as Antonio Winterstein.
The Cowboys' new signings had a positive impact on the NRL team, with the Cowboys spending much of the year in the top four before a late slide dropped them to seventh position and giving them their first finals appearance since 2007. That year, they were the most watched NRL club on pay television, and their round four clash with the Parramatta Eels was the fourth most-watched sports event in Fox Sport's history.
2012 saw the Cowboys return to the finals after finishing in 5th spot. They faced the Broncos in the first week of the finals, winning 33–16, with halfback Michael Morgan scoring a hat trick. They lost the following week to Manly, in controversial circumstances. Club legend Aaron Payne retired at the end of the season, after 10 years with the team.
The Cowboys again made the finals in 2013, the first time the club had made the finals series three straight years, when they finished in 8th place. After a poor start to the season, the side went on a 6-game winning streak following the sacking of coach Neil Henry. They were eliminated in Week 1 of the finals, after a controversial loss to the Cronulla Sharks. Club legend Matthew Bowen played his last season in the NRL, announcing he would be taking up an offer with Super League side, the Wigan Warriors. Club stalwarts Ashley Graham and Dallas Johnson also announced their retirements.
On 1 October 2013, former Cowboys halfback Paul Green was announced as head coach for the 2014 and 2015 seasons, becoming the first former Cowboys player to coach the club.
2014–2017: A new era and the club's first premiership
The Cowboys started their 2014 season by winning the inaugural NRL Auckland Nines tournament which was held at Eden Park in Auckland. After losing key signing Lachlan Coote early in the tournament to injury, the Cowboys went on to face the Brisbane Broncos in the final, defeating them 16–7 to claim the trophy and a prize money cheque of $370,000.
After a difficult start to the season and a string of injuries to key players including internationals, the Cowboys made a late charge to the finals finishing in fifth place and cementing a spot in the finals where they defeated the Brisbane Broncos, 32–20. They then travelled to Sydney to face the 2013 premiers the Sydney Roosters in the second week of the finals where they were defeated 31–30.
In 2015, the Cowboys experienced their best ever regular season. They had a club record 11 game winning streak and finished with a club record 17 wins. In September, Johnathan Thurston won a record fourth Dally M Medal at the Dally M Awards.
On 26 September 2015, the Cowboys qualified for their second grand final defeating the Melbourne Storm, 32–12. In the Grand Final, they defeated the Brisbane Broncos, 17–16. Thurston, who won the Clive Churchill Medal, kicked the winning field goal in golden point to win the Cowboys' their first ever premiership.
On 21 February 2016, the club won their first World Club Challenge and were crowned the world's best club, defeating the Leeds Rhinos 38–4 at Headingley Rugby Stadium in Leeds, England. The club could not defend its premiership, finishing the 2016 NRL season in 4th place and falling one game short of the Grand Final, being eliminated by the Cronulla Sharks 32–20 at Allianz Stadium.
In 2017, despite losing co-captains Johnathan Thurston and Matthew Scott to season-ending injuries, the club qualified for their third Grand Final. Although they were just the second side to reach the Grand Final from 8th place, they would lose to the Melbourne Storm, who finished the regular season as minor premiers.
2018–2019: Departure of club legends
Before the 2018 season began, North Queensland were predicted by many to challenge for the premiership with the return of Matthew Scott and Johnathan Thurston from injury. Instead, they struggled to move away from the bottom of the ladder, going on two separate five-game losing streaks throughout the season. With two rounds to play, the club sat in last place. Two wins from their final two games saw them finish in 13th. The 2018 season would be the last for Thurston, who retired after 14 seasons, 294 games and one premiership for the club. In his final match, the Cowboys defeated the Titans 30–26.
Despite a poor 2018 and the loss of Thurston, many expected the Cowboys to return to the finals in 2019. What followed was another disappointing year in which the club finished 14th. Club legends Matthew Scott and Scott Bolton were farewelled at the end of the season. Both were members of the club's premiership winning side in 2015 and spent their entire NRL careers at the club. The club also played its final game at Willows Sports Complex, defeating the Canterbury Bulldogs 15–8.
2020 NRL squad
North Queensland Cowboys 2020 Squad
|NRL squad||Coaching Staff|
Updated: 24 November 2019
Since 1995, the Cowboys have supplied numerous players to state and international representative sides.
10th anniversary team
In 2004, the Cowboys conducted a poll asking fans to vote on the best players to have worn Cowboy colours. After polling had finished the club released the overall best team to celebrate the team's 10th anniversary.
|Cowboys 10th Anniversary Team|
|First team squad||Coaching staff|
20th anniversary team
In 2015, the Cowboys celebrated their 20th anniversary and named a 20-year team at their anniversary dinner. The team was selected from a panel consisting of four former Cowboys coaches: Grant Bell, Neil Henry, Murray Hurst and Tim Sheens, and current coach Paul Green.
|Cowboys 20th Anniversary Team|
|First team squad||Coaching staff|
Cowboys Hall of Fame
In 2015, the Cowboys launched their official Hall of Fame during their 20th anniversary celebrations. The foundation criteria were that any players considered had to have played at least 100 NRL games for the club and that they had to have been retired for at least two years. The inductees were decided by a specially selected panel, including members of the Cowboys' organisation and the wider rugby league community, and are assessed on their skill and ability, leadership, integrity and character, their state and international honours, and awards won at the club.
In 2019, Matthew Bowen was inducted into the Hall of Fame at the club's 2019 season launch event.
At the end of each season the North Queensland Cowboys hold their Presentation Ball, in which they present (among other awards) the Paul Bowman Medal for Cowboy of the Year. The player of the year award, which was named after Bowman in 2007, is awarded to Cowboys player voted as the best and fairest over the premiership season. After each match, the coaching staff award three votes to the best Cowboys player on ground, two votes to the second best, and one vote to the third best, similar to the Dally M Medal voting system.
The most recent Paul Bowman Medal winner is Jason Taumalolo, who won the award for the first time in 2016 and is the first player to win the award three consecutive times. Bowman himself is a two-time winner of the award (1999, 2000), as is Luke O'Donnell (2004, 2009), Aaron Payne (2006, 2008) and Matt Scott (2010, 2013), while Johnathan Thurston, has won the award four times (2005, 2012, 2014, 2015). The first recipient of the medal was Wayne Sing in 1995.
In 2014, The Cowboys won their first major trophy, the inaugural NRL Auckland Nines tournament which was held at Eden Park in Auckland, defeating the Brisbane Broncos 16–7 in the final. A year later the Cowboys won their first NRL premiership, defeating the Broncos 17–16 in golden point extra time. Johnathan Thurston was awarded the Clive Churchill Medal.
Statistics and records
After a 10-year finals drought, the Cowboys made their first finals appearance in 2004, finishing one game away from the grand final. The following year the team played in their first grand final, losing to the Wests Tigers. The North Queensland club's second appearance in the grand final would not come for another 10 years, when they met Queensland rivals, Brisbane Broncos, in the 2015 decider. In one of the most entertaining grand finals in living memory, Johnathan Thurston kicked a golden-point field goal to win the Cowboys their maiden premiership.
The club's Under 20s side finished runners-up in the 2011 NYC grand final to the New Zealand Warriors while their feeder teams have won the Queensland Cup four times. In 2005 with the North Queensland Young Guns, 2010 and 2014 with the Northern Pride and 2013 with the Mackay Cutters.
Fullback Matthew Bowen currently holds the record for most first grade games and most tries for club. Bowen also holds the club record for most tries in a season, with 22 in 2007. Paul Bowman became the first Cowboy to play 200 first grade games in 2007. Current co-captain Johnathan Thurston jointly holds the record for most points in a match with Josh Hannay at 24. Hannay's 10 goals against South Sydney in 2003. Johnathan Thurston currently holds the most points in a season in 2014 with 234 points. Winger Ray Mercy was the first, and so far only, Cowboy to score 4 tries in a match, which he did against Balmain in 1998.
The club's biggest winning margin is 58 points, achieved in 2014 in a 64–6 victory over the Wests Tigers. Their heaviest defeat is a 62–0 loss by the Parramatta Eels in 2001.
From 1995 to 2018, the Cowboys played their home games at Willows Sports Complex, located in the Townsville suburb of Kirwan. Prior to 1995, the venue hosted trotting paceway nights, and was the main pacing venue for the Townsville District, but due to the admittance of the Cowboys, the venue was turned into a rugby league stadium.
The venue was renamed Stockland Stadium in 1995, due to sponsorship rights, and attracted a crowd of 23,156 to the Cowboys first ever premiership game. In 1998, the name was changed to Malanda Stadium by new sponsors Dairy Farmers, before being renamed again in 1999 to Dairy Farmers Stadium. The stadium underwent major renovations in 2005 and 2006, with the eastern, northern and southern grandstands receiving upgrades, the addition of more corporate boxes and a new replay screen and public address system installed. Dairy Farmers 15-year partnership with the Cowboys ended at the end of 2012 season, as the club looked for a new naming rights sponsor for the stadium.
In 2013, the stadium was renamed 1300SMILES Stadium, after the Townsville-based dental practice entered into a five-year sponsorship deal with Stadiums Queensland. On 29 August 2018, the club played their final game at the stadium, defeating the Canterbury Bulldogs 15–8.
The club record attendance for a regular season match is 30,302, set against the Brisbane Broncos in the round 8 of the 1999 season. The record attendance for a finals match is 24,989, set against the Brisbane Broncos in week 2 of the 2004 finals series.
Emblems and colours
Before becoming the Cowboys, the team names Marlins, Stingrays and the very popular Crocodiles were tossed up as potential team logos for the side, before public consultation resulted in the name 'Cowboys' (the Crocodiles name would eventually go to Townsville's National Basketball League team, who changed their name to the Townsville Crocodiles in 1998 after a dispute with the NBA's Phoenix Suns over their original name, the Townsville Suns). The colours navy blue and yellow were chosen to reflect the colours of the Townsville representative sides. Grey was also added as primary colour with white introduced as a secondary colour.
The clubs "steer head" logo has stayed basically the same since 1995. In the early years the logo was on a white rectangular background, before being backed with a yellow oval. In 2003 the font was changed and a yellow star added, which remain to this day. A lighter shade of navy blue and white were also added to the logo. In 2020, the club introduced a new logo to celebrate their 25th season.
The Cowboys home jerseys have stayed predominately navy blue over the years, with white, grey and yellow all being the predominate secondary colour at some stage, with the away jerseys predominately white. Since 2011, the club has also worn special jerseys for Women in League round, Indigenous round and an Anzac/Defence force-themed jersey for games played on Anzac weekend.
|Period||Jersey manufacturers||Principal sponsors||Sleeve sponsors||Shorts sponsors|
|1995–1996||Canterbury Clothing||XXXX Castlemaine Perkins||Chill Malanda Flavoured Milk||XXXX Castlemaine Perkins|
|1999–2000||FILA||Overflow Discount Stores||Kentucky Fried Chicken||None|
|2001||CHR Employment Services|
|2005||Queensland Property Group||Queensland Country Credit Union|
Average regular season attendance
Mackay Cutters – based in Mackay, Queensland Northern Pride – based in Cairns, Queensland Townsville Blackhawks – based in Townsville, Queensland
The Cowboys players who do not make the NRL side train and play with feeder club in the Intrust Super Cup. These teams, based in the northern Queensland cities of Cairns, Mackay and Townsville, are separate entities but are affiliated with the Cowboys.
From opposite ends of the Sunshine State, the Cowboys have a long-standing rivalry with the Brisbane Broncos. Between 1999 and 2006 inclusive, these two clubs were the only clubs from Queensland playing in the National Rugby League. In the early days, Brisbane would always beat North Queensland either in Brisbane or Townsville. At the conclusion of the 2017 NRL season, 48 first grade matches have been played between the two clubs, with Brisbane winning 31, North Queensland winning 15, and 2 drawn matches.
The rivalry really grew in popularity among fans from 2015 on-wards when Wayne Bennett returned to Red Hill to coach the Broncos, and Paul Green was only one year into his coaching role at the Cowboys, quickly making a name for himself as one of the best coaches in the league. Between 2015 and 2017 3 of 5 of the games they played against each other went to Golden point being declared by many as one of the greatest rivalries in the game today, earning the nickname the Queensland Derby.
They met in the 2015 NRL Grand Final on 4 October at ANZ Stadium, the first to be played by two Queensland based teams. This game is often regarded as the greatest grand final ever played with the Broncos leading right up until the 80th minute before Kyle Feldt crashed over for a try to take the game into the first ever Grand Final Golden Point. It was then in Golden point when Jonathan Thurston kicked a field goal to win the Cowboys their first ever premiership and solidify himself as one of the greatest NRL players to ever play the game.
Games between them are played with a large degree of respect toward each other and are extremely tough games that entertain for the full 80 minutes or usually more.
A rivalry very much built on finals football. This rivalry begun to flourish due to the two teams both having had major success around the same time, with the Cowboys winning their maiden premiership in 2015 and the Cronulla Sharks winning their first premiership just a year later in 2016.
In the week one elimination final of 2013 NRL premiership this rivalry really started to take shape, as the Sharks scored a very controversial seven-tackle try, proving to be crucial as it ended the Cowboys season 20–18. This controversial game also helped feed a conspiracy that the NRL was trying to prevent Queensland teams from making the grand final.
Two years later the Cowboys thrashed the Sharks up in Townsville, registering their biggest finals win 39–0 in another elimination final, as the Cowboys continued through the finals and went on to win their first premiership.
They would meet once again in a 2016 preliminary final, with the Sharks ending the Cowboys hopes of having back-to-back premierships, the score 32–20. The Sharks would then go on to win their first grand final against the Melbourne Storm the following game.
The rivalry continued on in to the 2017 finals with yet another elimination final, as the Sharks hosted an injured and battered Cowboys at Allianz Stadium. The Cowboys went in massive under-dogs, but would go on to upset the Sharks 15–14 in a very tough contest. Ironically, it would be the Cowboys who ended the Sharks hopes of having back-to-back grand final success.
North Queensland Gold Stars
On 10 September 2019, the club announced the opening of their Women's Academy. Starting in 2020, the Academy provides a pathway to elite rugby league for females in north Queensland, with the aim to eventually have a team in the NRL Women's Premiership. Coached by former NRL and Super League halfback Ben Jeffries, the Academy is made up of squads based in Cairns, Mackay and Townsville. The first four Academy members announced were Romy Teitzel, Riu Te Hiko, Shanaye Watson and Jasmine Peters.
|Chief Executive Officer||Jeff Reibel|
|Director of Football||Peter Parr|
|Chief Operating Officer||Micheal Luck|
|General Manager – Community||Fiona Pelling|
|Chief Marketing Officer||Jacqui James-Eggins|
|Chief Financial Officer||Michael Gilbert|
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