The Cowboys have the perfect chance to start life without Johnathan Thurston, with four of their first games of 2019 being in Townsville. Picture: Zak Simmonds
The Cowboys have the perfect chance to start life without Johnathan Thurston, with four of their first games of 2019 being in Townsville. Picture: Zak Simmonds

2019 NRL draw: Cowboys analysis

THE Cowboys must make the most of playing four of their first five games in Townsville to re-announce themselves as an NRL presence after a sobering 2018.

After farewelling Johnathan Thurston this year, the Cowboys will play their last season with 1300 Smiles Stadium as their home ground before the planned move to a 25,000-seat stadium near Townsville's CBD in 2020.

In the first five rounds the Cowboys will take on the Dragons, Sharks, Raiders and Storm in Townsville, with a round two visit to take on the Broncos at Suncorp Stadium their only away assignment in that period.

Johnathan Thurston has said farewell to the Townsville faithful. Picture: Zak Simmonds
Johnathan Thurston has said farewell to the Townsville faithful. Picture: Zak Simmonds

The Cowboys will want early success as they look to put plenty of distance between them and a 2018 season in which they finished 13th after losing all five matches from rounds two to six.

The nine teams the Cowboys play twice in the 2019 NRL draw announced on Thursday are the Raiders (10th in 2018), Titans (14th), Dragons (out in a semi-final), Rabbitohs and Sharks (both out in a preliminary final), Tigers (ninth), Broncos (out in an elimination final), Bulldogs (12th) and Storm (runners-up).

Five finals teams out of nine is worse than par for the course in this regard, especially as three of those opponents were still going on preliminary final weekend.

As firm Saturday night favourites of Fox League bosses, North Queensland have precious few of the awkward turnarounds that teams have had in the past.

Their worst turnaround by far comes when a round 18 home match against Souths on a Saturday night is followed by a Thursday night clash away against Cronulla.

The Cowboys face a tough turnaround in round 18, when they play the Rabbitohs in Townsville on a Saturday before heading to Sydney for a Thursday game against Cronulla.
The Cowboys face a tough turnaround in round 18, when they play the Rabbitohs in Townsville on a Saturday before heading to Sydney for a Thursday game against Cronulla.

It is the first of three straight Thursday night appearances, with the Tigers in round 20 at Leichhardt Oval and the Broncos in round 21 at 1300 Smiles Stadium.

That does not help the Cowboys draw spectators for their showcase home match of any season and only 19,663 watched the clash this year on a Thursday night.

The Cowboys play only four times in the prized timeslot of the second Friday night match. Two games are against the Storm and one against the Broncos.

North Queensland's prized recruit, Ben Barba, the Super League Man of Steel award winner, can plan to play his first match at home against St George Illawarra in round one.

Cowboys recruit Ben Barba can open his campaign against the Dragons at home in round one.
Cowboys recruit Ben Barba can open his campaign against the Dragons at home in round one.

"He gives us a bit of X-factor. If he can create something out of nothing like Mango (Matt Bowen) used to do for us, find the form he had in his Dally M year or the year Cronulla won the premiership, he'd have an impact on us,'' North Queensland's Maroons Origin forward Coen Hess said.

Most of the Cowboys players return to training on November 5, although senior players such as Michael Morgan and Matt Scott will have an additional week's break.

"Paul Green (Cowboys coach) said the year didn't go to plan and not to let that be a burden on you,'' Hess said.

"For me at the Cowboys, it's always been a winning culture and this year was completely different. He said to take it as a learning curve and if I ever find myself in this position I will hopefully manage myself a bit better, having experienced that year.

"We're focusing on having a big pre-season.''

COWBOYS FULL 2019 FIXTURE

ROUND 1

Saturday, Mar 16

Cowboys vs. Dragons 1300Smiles Stadium 7:35pm

ROUND 2

Friday, Mar 22

Broncos vs. Cowboys Suncorp Stadium 7:55pm

ROUND 3

Saturday, Mar 30

Cowboys vs. Sharks 1300Smiles Stadium 5:30pm

ROUND 4

Saturday, Apr 6

Cowboys vs. Raiders 1300Smiles Stadium 5:30pm

ROUND 5

Friday, Apr 12

Cowboys vs. Storm 1300Smiles Stadium 7:55pm

ROUND 6

Saturday, Apr 20

Warriors vs. Cowboys Mt Smart Stadium 5:30pm

ROUND 7

Friday, Apr 26

Bulldogs vs. Cowboys ANZ Stadium 6:00pm

ROUND 8

Friday, May 3

Cowboys vs. Titans 1300Smiles Stadium 6:00pm

ROUND 9

Sunday, May 12

Rabbitohs vs. Cowboys Suncorp Stadium 4:05pm

ROUND 10

Saturday, May 18

Cowboys vs. Eels 1300Smiles Stadium 5:30pm

ROUND 11

Saturday, May 25

Raiders vs. Cowboys GIO Stadium 3:00pm

ROUND 12

Sunday, Jun 2

Titans vs. Cowboys CBus Super Stadium 4:05pm

ROUND 13

Saturday, Jun 8

Cowboys vs. Sea Eagles 1300Smiles Stadium 7:35pm

ROUND 14

Friday, Jun 14

Cowboys vs. Tigers 1300Smiles Stadium 7:55pm

ROUND 15

Friday, Jun 28

Dragons vs. Cowboys WIN Stadium 6:00pm

ROUND 16

BYE

ROUND 17

Sunday, Jul 14

Roosters vs. Cowboys Central Coast Stadium 2:00pm

ROUND 18

Saturday, Jul 20

Cowboys vs. Rabbitohs 1300Smiles Stadium 7:35pm

ROUND 19

Thursday, Jul 25

Sharks vs. Cowboys Shark Park 7:50pm

ROUND 20

Thursday, Aug 1

Tigers vs. Cowboys Leichhardt Oval 7:50pm

ROUND 21

Thursday, Aug 8

Cowboys vs. Broncos 1300Smiles Stadium 7:50pm

ROUND 22

Saturday, Aug 17

Knights vs. Cowboys McDonald Jones Stadium 3:00pm

ROUND 23

Friday, Aug 23

Cowboys vs. Panthers 1300Smiles Stadium 6:00pm

ROUND 24

Thursday, Aug 29

Cowboys vs. Bulldogs 1300Smiles Stadium 7:50pm

ROUND 25

Friday, Sep 6

Storm vs. Cowboys AAMI Park 7:55pm



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