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NRL news | The Mole |How Michael Morgan’s retirement could define the Cowboys’ 2022 season

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LThe North Queensland Cowboys finished second-last in 2021 and by all accounts they could be staring down the barrel of another lean year.

After winning six of eight games last year to put themselves in the race for the top eight, Todd Payten’s men could only manage one win after their Round 13 bye, leaving them languishing come finals time.

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There were a few bright spots though, Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow showed he could provide spark from the back and Chad Townsend showed strong leadership. His presence this year will hold more weight since the retirement of Michael Morgan, while also providing support to star Jason Taumalolo and young half Tom Dearden.

Read on for Wide World of Sports’ season preview.

2021 finishing position: 15th

Gains: Chad Townsend (Sharks), Peta Hiku (Warriors), Jamayne Taunoa-Brown (Warriors), Brendan Elliot (Leigh)

Losses: Michael Morgan (retired), Francis Molo (Dragons), Corey Jensen (Broncos), Justin O’Neill (retired), Shane Wright (Salford), Peter Hola (Raiders), Javid Bowen (retired).

Best 17: 1. Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow, 2. Kyle Feldt, 3. Peta Hiku, 4. Valentine Holmes, 5. Murray Taulagi, 6. Tom Dearden, 7. Chad Townsend, 8. Coen Hess, 9. Reece Robson, 10. Jordan McLean, 11. Tom Gilbert, 12. Heilum Luki, 13. Jason Taumalolo, 14. Reuben Cotter, 15. Jeremiah Nanai, 16. Lachlan Burr, 17. Griffin Neame

Greatest strength: The Cowboys’ home fortress in Townsville and the problems it creates for visiting teams battling the stifling heat and humidity and large parochial home crowds. That’s always worth a win or two.

Biggest question mark: The halves. Chad Townsend comes in to fill the big boots of the retired Michael Morgan and Tom Dearden has yet to show he is a consistent NRL playmaker. The season rests on their combination.

Man under pressure: The Cowboys have one of the youngest packs in the NRL and will rely on Jason Taumalolo to show them the way forward. The big fella is a man of few words – but his actions are dynamic and he could spark the rest of the pack to new heights.

Biggest loss: Michael Morgan was Johnathan Thurston’s go-to man on the field and one of the heroes of the Cowboys’ lone premiership. His skills and heart will be hard to replace.

Predicted 2022 finishing position: 16th

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