NRL Nines Team Predictions: North Queensland Cowboys
Posted by Lachy Harper
Posted in NRL
With the excitement for the NRL’s latest format heating up, we here at Undisputed Sports thought it would be interesting to begin compiling who we think would make the cut into each teams respective 9 a side team.
As it currently stands, the inaugural NRL Auckland Nines will take place on February 15-16 in 2014 at Eden Park with all 16 NRL clubs to battle it out for a prize pool exceeding $2 million dollars.
A committee has been developed to iron out some of the finer rules of the format, but the more noticeable changes include:
- Two nine minute halves (Total game time 18 minutes)
- Teams consisting of 14 players (9 on at any one time and 5 on the bench)
- Unlimited interchange
- Five player scrums
- All kicks for goal are via drop kick
- 3 minute sin bins
With all of this in mind, it’s time to identify and analyze who the North Queensland Cowboys would take with them into the nines tournament.
With a new coach and new key players, the Cowboys will see the NRL Nines Tournament as an opportunity to establish combinations and blood youngsters before a massive 2014 season. They’ll be out from the get-go to test their opposition for the year ahead through their versatile forward pack and talented backs. The acquisition of Lachlan Coote and Cameron King through the off season is sure to impact upon the Cowboys’ regular team standings with both players almost certainties for the tournament as they look to adapt to the Cowboys squad and establish a combination with themselves as well as a combination with Johnathan Thurston and Robert Lui.
Additionally, the Nines tournament will provide a further opportunity to provide match fitness for players such as Johnathan Thurston and James Tamou, however, they may utilize these players off the bench in an attempt to guard them from injury which has previously featured within their respective careers. With such an abundance of agility and versatility within their squad, the Cowboys will seek to utilize an attacking game plan during their campaign by exploiting the talents of Winterstein, Feldt and Lowe on the outsides and Lachlan Coote from behind the play. The power and strength of Tariq Sims, James Tamou and Gavin Cooper will also look to break through the centre of the field. The Cowboys will most likely look to structure their play around offloads, tackle busts and lots and lots of running due to the agility of the majority of their players as well as the speed and play-making skills of certain individuals.
Where the Cowboys will score a lot of tries and create plenty of line breaks will be through their forwards, with the majority of the named forwards possessing the ability to play at centre, which in turn shall create excellent running play and a formula for points as the Cowboys will look to outscore their opponents. Players such as Tariq Sims, Gavin Cooper, Ethan Lowe and Jason Taumalolo all have the ability to weave around an opponent through not only strength but footwork and agility too, which will become a massive asset for the Cowboys if they wish to experience success throughout the tournament. The Cowboys also have a healthy amount of youngsters with speed to burn which will prove extremely important going into tight matches, with any number of the Cowboys talented youngsters possessing the speed and ability to break open a tight game with just one moment of brilliance. One player to watch will be Javid Bowen, who was the Cowboys top try scorer in the NYC last year. Expect him to absolutely brilliant in this format, if he is to be played and trialled against first grade opposition. The Cowboys also have a wealth of options in the kicking department with Lachlan Coote, Robert Lui, Cameron King and Johnathan Thurston all possessing the ability to gain integral territory or set up a try with their respective kicking games.
The Cowboys may however struggle defensively in the tournament, with the majority of their players not being well known for maintaining the ability to tackle during pressure situations as well as within the open play. This vulnerability in defence could cost the Cowboys dearly during the tournament as they look to shut down opponents and expel their try-scoring opportunities, whilst looking to put on as many points as possible for themselves. The Cowboys as a result, may rely heavily upon their new hooker, Cameron King to carry out defensive duties which in turn may result in him not having the ability to attack with potency, which may also destroy his kicking game. If King does become fatigued the Cowboys also have the issue where they are unable to fill his role with a suitable player, with many of the Cowboys hookers performing below par in the 2013 NRL season. Rory Kostjasyn could be a potential defensive block in the centre of the field who might also offer up some play-making. In saying that, Green might opt for a rookie instead. With the way the Cowboys have been with their hookers lately, who knows.
Whilst the Cowboys youngsters will bring with them fresh legs and enthusiasm, they could potentially bring a vulnerability to the team with some players possessing the inability to handle pressure in certain games by turning over possession or giving away silly penalties in key moments of the game which in turn could have a detrimental impact upon the Cowboy’s campaign and could possibly see them lose tight matches too often.
Holistically, the NRL Nines will provide certain Cowboys players with an opportunity to feel and experience the standard of first grade football, whilst also providing the opportunity for players such as Ethan Lowe, Jason Taumalolo and Tariq Sims to acquire some consistency going into the 2014 NRL season. Despite the talent and agility of their squad, I can see the Cowboys having an up and down campaign with a heavy reliance being burdened upon certain individuals due to the inconsistencies and defensive vulnerabilities of the Cowboys. They are also in a relatively tight group, with fierce competition expected. Despite the negatives, the Cowboys new coach Paul Green will have his first opportunity to show off how he hopes to take the Cowboys to the top in 2014. Expect their talented squad to pull off some incredible manoeuvres but be ultimately left reaching for air in the group stage.
Predicted Finish: 9th – 16th (Won’t make it out of the group stage)
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