Morgan comeback central to Cowboys’ revival
The Cowboys often lament the feeling of being out of sight, out of mind in Townsville.
This season, they should count their lucky stars they are 2000km away from the Sydney-centric mania of the NRL.
If the 13th-placed Cowboys were amid the action down south, they would be getting smashed from pillar to post in the media.
They have been fortunate to escape much of the forensic analysis saved for clubs like Parramatta, the Dragons, Wests Tigers and South Sydney.
As Queensland's flagship club, the Broncos are under enormous scrutiny, their soap opera trials and tribulations often masking any problems that could be brewing up north.
But the Queensland derby last Thursday night, so messy it was as boring as an episode of Antiques Roadshow, laid bare some home truths for North Queensland.
The Cowboys have gone backwards as a club. Badly.
And unless they address the five key things below, Cowboys fans are in for some long winters.
SIXES AND SEVENS
WHAT has happened to Michael Morgan?
The retirement of Johnathan Thurston was meant to unshackle Morgan and free him to be the Cowboys' main man.
Instead, he is a prisoner to his self-doubts.
On his day, Morgan is among the NRL's top 10 players but he has been below-par for two seasons, lacking the confidence and class that carried the Cowboys to the 2017 grand final.
Maybe it's the pressure of captaincy, or controlling the team, but Morgan's lethal straight-line running has deserted him. He has played 1248 minutes this season for two line breaks.
Clubs need one dominant playmaker to be a premiership threat. The Cowboys desperately need their $5 million man to take control.
PAUL Green is, in my view, one of the NRL's top five coaches.
He delivered the Cowboys' first ever premiership. But since the heady days of 2015, Green has lost Thurston, a future Immortal, and needs to find fresh ideas to revitalise his roster.
The code's greatest coach, Wayne Bennett, insists the key to coaching longevity is the capacity to evolve.
The sight of Green unloading on Coen Hess in the sheds at halftime earlier this season, berating him in front of the whole squad, rang alarm bells.
Green can be intense but he is also highly intelligent.
Next season will be his seventh at the Cowboys. He must find new shapes for the Cowboys' attack and new ways to improve his players, such as Jason Taumalolo developing some second-phase, to avoid the seven year itch in 2020.
THE Cowboys can't afford more recruitment blunders.
Roster management is an inexact science but the Cowboys were in a state of inertia following their 2015 title win. They needed to inject fresh blood. It didn't happen.
Instead three young guns - Kalyn Ponga, Viliame Kikau and Brandon Smith - were poached by rival clubs.
The signings of Ben Barba and Nene MacDonald ended in tears. Ethan Lowe was let go this season and became an Origin player at Souths.
Gavin Cooper wants to play on next season at 34 but the Cowboys must think seriously about the repercussions for their salary cap if he signs a 12-month deal.
Mitch Dunn, hooker Reuben Cotter and Peter Hola, a 20-year-old forward who made his debut against Brisbane last week, are bright hopes for the future.
THE Cowboys backline needs an X-factor.
Tom Opacic has proved a handy recruit from the Broncos but he is solid rather than spectacular like Valentine Holmes, who would transform the Cowboys if his NFL adventure doesn't work out.
Javid Bowen, Gideon Gela-Mosby and Enari Tuala just haven't kicked on as hoped.
THE club needs more from Jordan McLean upfront.
He gets injured too often and for a man his size, he isn't dominant enough.
At 118kg, he is as big as Payne Haas. Broncos monster Haas has 71 tackle busts this season from 16 games. McLean has 21 from 18 … and averages 50 fewer metres per game than Haas, who regularly reaches 200m.
With Matt Scott retiring at season's end, McLean must get more busy as the Cowboys' chief enforcer.
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