North Queensland Cowboys

North Queensland Cowboys
North Queensland Cowboys
Club information
Full name North Queensland Cowboys
Rugby League Football Club
Colours Primary:
Founded 1995
Current details
Ground(s) Dairy Farmers Stadium
Townsville, Queensland (26,500)
CEO(s) Peter Jourdain
Coach(s) Neil Henry
Captain(s) Johnathan Thurston
Matthew Scott
Competition National Rugby League
2011 season Qualifying finalists (7th)
Home jersey
Home colours
Away jersey
Away colours
Rugby football current event.png Current season
Premierships None
Runners-up 1 (2005)
Minor premiership None
Wooden spoons 3 (1995, 1997SL, 2000)
Most capped 204* - Matthew Bowen
Most points 883 - Johnathan Thurston

The North Queensland Cowboys are an Australian professional rugby league football club based in Townsville, Queensland. They compete in Australasia's elite rugby league competition, the National Rugby League (NRL) premiership. Over the sixteen seasons since their admission to the League in 1995, the club has appeared in 1 grand final, reached the play-offs 3 times, received 3 wooden spoons and had a total of 4 of its players (3 Queensland Maroons and 1 New South Wales Blues) selected to wear the green and gold for Australia. The team's management headquarters and home ground Dairy Farmers Stadium and are located in the Townsville suburb of Kirwan.

The Cowboys were admitted to the premiership for the 1995 ARL season. They played in the breakaway Super League competition of 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. The Cowboys had to wait ten years to finish a season in the top half of the ladder. The following season they reached the Grand Final for the first time. In 2007 the team was sold by News to the Cowboys League Club. In 2011 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. [1]



1995, 1996: Origins

Original logo of the cowboys

The Cowboys name and team colours were decided by public competition in 1994. 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.[citation needed] This was exacerbated by an initial lack of onfield success and stability. In their first two seasons, the Cowboys had eight different captains.

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.

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.

2000–2004: Wooden spoon to finalists

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 and second last the following year, four losses at the start of the 2002 season saw coach Tim Sheens sacked and replaced by his assistant Murray Hurst. Although they finished in their highest position to date, coach Hurst was also sacked at early in the 2003 season, and replaced by Graham Murray. 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.

A signing was made for 2004, Travis Norton. The club's tenth anniversary season began in much the same fashion as in earlier years, and after seven rounds the team had posted only one victory. However, in a remarkable turnaround of form, the Cowboys were able to win 12 of their remaining games and finish in seventh position at the end of the home and away season. For the first time, the Cowboys were part of final eight, and in the mix at business end of the season: the 2004 NRL finals series. Remarkably, the Cowboys' new status in the game afforded them their first free-to-air televised game in their history. Whilst Channel Nine had all but ignored the Townsville-based team, a place in the finals had the public beating the drum for coverage. This provided Channel Nine with a last minute opportunity to jump on the Cowboys bandwagon, with Nine Commentator Ray "Rabbits" Warren branding the Cowboys as "2004's fairytale team". But for many fans throughout Queensland and in other states, such accolades were all too late from the NRL's chief free-to-air television provider who had failed to deliver coverage of the national competition.

In their first finals match they played a Qualifying Final against the eventual premiers Bulldogs at Telstra Stadium. Against expectation the Cowboys defeated the Bulldogs 30–22. A week later at Dairy Farmers Stadium in Townsville they defeated the Brisbane Broncos 10–0 in a Semi-Final. This was the first time that they had ever defeated the Broncos (and also the first time the Broncos had been held scoreless anywhere in Queensland). The road to the grand final ended for the Cowboys when they were controversially defeated by the Sydney Roosters 19–16. Many fans and media alike were disgruntled at the handling of the final minutes of the elimination game by referee Paul Simpkins, and his refusal to allow the Cowboys to pack a scrum with seconds left on the clock. Suggestions of a Sydney-bias by referee Simpkins have continued to overshadow both his career and what many fans regarded as a classic finals match. Simpkin was not considered for the grand final refereeing duties.

2005: Grand finalists

The Cowboys followed their success in 2004 by opening their season with 5 straight victories. They finished the 2005 season in fifth place, after 14 wins and 10 losses. The team's performance led to six Cowboys being represented in the Queensland State of Origin team: Paul Bowman, Matt Bowen, Ty Williams, Johnathan Thurston, Matt Sing and Carl Webb. Thurston was also rewarded by winning the NRL's best and fairest player award: the Dally M Medal.

In the first week of the finals the Cowboys travelled to Telstra Stadium where they were defeated by Wests Tigers 30–16 They were more successful in their second and third weeks of the finals, in which they defeated the Melbourne Storm 24–16 and Parramatta Eels 29–0 and qualified for the NRL Grand Final for the first time.

The grand final saw them once more facing the Tigers. Although Matthew Bowen scored the first try of the match, the Tigers were too strong for the Cowboys and won the match 30–16.


Dairy Farmers Stadium is the home ground of the North Queensland Cowboys. It hosted two qualifying finals in 2007.

The Cowboys started off the year by winning 6 straight games. One of the teams they defeated were to become the premiers, the Brisbane Broncos (in fact, the Cowboys beat them twice during the season, the second time was in a match Johnathan Thurston got seriously injured). They then fell into a hole, winning only 5 of the last 19 games, making them finish 9th on the ladder, just missing out of the finals. Much criticism has been directed at coach Murray for not sticking with a stable scrumbase pairing throughout 2006, with a number of players such as Brett Firman and Brent McConnell seen as unable to support the talents of playmaker Johnathan Thurston. The Cowboys finished the final round of regular season with a convincing win over the Parramatta Eels to give their fans some hope for 2007. Particularly impressive were hooker Aaron Payne and fullback Matthew Bowen, who recaptured some of his magic and regained some much needed form heading into the off season. Other players who have impressed throughout 2006 include Australian representative player Luke O'Donnell, as well as Carl Webb who struggled for much of the year with injuries. The ever reliable Paul Bowman continued to show the hard fought spirit of the team despite a neck injury that struck him down at the close of the season. Aaron Payne also capped off a strong year for the club to be named Cowboy of the Year for 2006. 2006 also saw the departure of several key personal, including legendary strength and conditioner Billy Johnstone – to the Gold Coast Titans – and assistant coach Neil Henry accepted a head coaching position with the Canberra Raiders. The Cowboys announced that tough talking former English Super League coach Ian Millward would replace Henry as Graham Murray's assistant, with Glen Murphy taking over from Johnstone.

The 2007 season turned out to be a great one for the Cowboys. Finishing 3rd overall on the premiership ladder, their highest finish to date, they ensured a home preliminary final. Despite season ending injuries to Luke O'Donnell, Shane Tronc and Steve Southern and the 7 week suspension of Sione Faumuina, the Cowboys managed to win their last 5 games of the season without the majority of their experienced forward pack. Most notably Ray Cashmere and Sam Faust ( who was a brilliant replacement for Luke O'Donnell) have assumedly secured his spot in the starting 17 for the 2007 final series and into 2008. 2007 also saw 20 year old Ben Farrar make his stamp on the Cowboys scoring 4 tries in 2 games, 2 in round 21 and 2 in round 25, having missed 4 weeks due to injury. Ashley Graham was an excellent asset to the team, scoring 17 tries in 19 games. Cowboys stars Matt Bowen and captain Johnathan Thurston displayed excellent form through the year with Bowen leading the top try scorer count with 21. Despite some injury concerns in the last half of the season, Thurston has maintained his key-player status by setting up match winning plays and scoring 164 points. In September Thurston won the Dally M Player of the Year Award and the Halfback of the Year Award, both for the second time in three years. Bowen also claimed two awards with Fullback of the Year and leading try scorer of the year, the later tied with Melbourne Storm rookie, Israel Folau. During the final series, the Cowboys defeated both the Canterbury Bulldogs and the New Zealand Warriors to set up a preliminary final with the Manly Sea Eagles. The Cowboys lost 28 to 6, eliminating them from the finals series.

2008–2010: Struggling Seasons

The 2008 NRL Season was seen as a very tough year for the Cowboys. Before the season began, the club announced head coach Graham Murray's contract would not be renewed. This resulted in the clubs downfall. After only winning three of the first ten games, Murray resigned from his job. The club then confirmed assistant coach Ian Millward would take over the duties for the rest of the season. During his stint as head coach, the club could only win two more games. This season saw the club break their previous record of 10 consecutive losses by losing 13 straight matches from round 4 until the club broke the record in round 22 by beating the Canterbury Bulldogs 36–12. The Cowboys throughout the season 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. The club did have some positives with Johnathan Thurston named in the 2008 Rugby League World Cup squad for Australia as well as being picked for Queensland along with Carl Webb and Jacob Lillyman.

2009 saw the appointment of Neil Henry as head coach which saw some hope for the club after winning NRL Coach of the Year with the Canberra Raiders the previous year. Throughout the year, the club were poised to make the finals however, the club slumped the consecutive losses to miss out on playing in the finals for the second straight year. 2009 also saw Matthew Bowen score his 100th try becoming the first Cowboy to score 100 tries for the club.

The beginning out the 2010 season was the speculation of whether Johnathan Thurston would renew his contract with the club. This included the club signing Thurston's friend and former teammate Willie Mason. Thurston did renew for another three seasons however it brought very little success. The club finished 15th however, the club would have received the wooden spoon if Melbourne Storm did not lose all of their competition points. 2010 saw the emergence of Scott Bolton and seeing the test debut of Matthew Scott. Also the club had a new record with Jason Taumalolo making his debut against the Canterbury Bulldogs in round 24 aged 17 years and 82 days.


Currently the club has gone under a huge cleanout within the club favourites Luke O'Donnell, Carl Webb, Steve Southern and Anthony Watts as well as a host of other players. The club did sign high profile players such as Brent Tate and Dallas Johnson, Gavin Cooper, Glenn Hall, Antonio Winterstein, Ricky Thorby, Ben Jones, Joel Reithmuller, Cory Paterson; as well as a host of young talents including U20 Toyota Cup Player of the Year: Tariq Sims, Kalifa Faifai Loa and Blake Leary. The club has also promoted players Ray Thompson, Michael Morgan, James Segeyaro and Jack Cooper from their U20 squad. The clubs depth will be tested early in the season after Brent Tate went under a third knee reconstruction which will see Tate miss most of the first half of the season. The Cowboys where the big movers of 2011 from 15th in 2010 to equal 6th in 2011. They made the finals for the first time since 2007. The cowboys won 11 of their first 14 games. They were in the top four until Rnd 26 when they lost a string of games. They were knocked out of the finals in the first week after being beaten by Manly. They also had a clean out of their coaching staff; Peter Ryan, Dean Benton, Peter Jouidan, Paul Bowman and Sean Edwards are among the new names.


2011 Squad

North Queensland Cowboys
First team squad Coaching staff

Head coach

Assistant coaches

  • (c) Captain
  • (vc) Vice captain
  • Injury icon 2.svg Injured

Updated: 29 July 2011
Source(s): Player Profiles, NRL Team,
Rugby League Project

Notable players

In 2004, the North Queensland Cowboys conducted a poll asking fans to vote on the best players who ever wore Cowboy colours. After polling had finished the club released the overall best team to celebrate the team's 10th anniversary.

No. Position Player
1 Australia FB Matt Bowen
2 Australia WG Ty Williams
3 Australia CE Josh Hannay
4 Australia CE Paul Bowman
5 Australia WG Matt Sing
6 Australia FE Julian O'Neill
7 Australia HB Laurie Spina
No. Position Player
8 Australia PR John Buttigieg
9 Australia HK Steve Walters
10 Australia PR Paul Rauhihi
11 Australia SR Kevin Campion
12 Australia SR Peter Jones
13 Australia LK Glenn Morrison
Australia CO Graham Murray

Representative players

Coaching staff

Position Name Years
Head Coach Neil Henry 2009 –
Assistant Coach Mick Crawley 2009 –
Assistant Coach Peter Ryan 2011 –
High Performance Manager Paul Bowman 2011 –
Head Conditioner Glen Murphy 2011 –
Strength Coach Sean Edwards 2011–


Name Years
Neil Henry 2009–present
Graham Murray 2002–2008
Murray Hurst 2001–2002
Tim Sheens 1997–2001
Graham Lowe 1996
Grant Bell 1995

Under 20's

Name Years
Grant Bell 2008
Kristian Woolf 2009–

Feeder Clubs

The Cowboys players who do not make the run on teams for either the NRL or NYC sides train and play with 'feeder' sides in the Queensland Cup (Intrust Super Cup). These teams, based in the northern Queensland cities of Cairns and Mackay, are separate entities but are affiliated with the Cowboys.


Position Name
CEO Peter Jourdain
Chairman Laurence Lancini
Director Paul Travis
Director Frank Stanton
Director Lewis Ramsay
Director Trevor Cowling
General Manager – Commercial Stephen Mitchell
General Manager – Football Peter Parr
Principal Sponsor Toyota

See also


  • The Official NRL 2003 Season Guide
  • The Official NRL 2004 Season Guide
  • The Official NRL 2005 Season Guide
  • 2004 Official Rugby League Annual Big League Special Edition
  • 2005 Official Rugby League Annual Big League Special Edition
  • History of Rugby League Clubs in Australia (Book)Author: Sean Fagan
  • Super League The Magazine Volume 1 – 20

External links


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