North Queensland Cowboys: The run home...

The Cowboys seemed like they'd found their mojo in 2009 and were a team many expected big things from at the start of the season, but patchy form throughout the year could leave many wondering if the team from Townsville are the real deal.<br><br>They have pushed the Dragons twice, even beating them earlier in the season, but have also come up with losses to the likes of Canberra and Parramatta. These are teams who need to be beaten by serious finals contenders.<br><br>The key to the Cowboys is no secret. It's a fit Johnathan Thurston. If JT stays on the park - anything is possible. If their playmaker is injured - they will ultimately struggle.<br><b><br>The Run home:</b> Panthers (H), Titans (A), Storm (A), Bulldogs (H), Knights (A), Broncos (H), Roosters (A)<br><br>The Cowboys may have the toughest run of any team in the Glory Bound Rounds, with only the Roosters game a walk up two points for them. Every other team they play is in the mix for a spot in the top eight and at least three of them are top four sides, which makes life difficult for the Cowboys.<br><br>The game against the Bulldogs in round 23 at Dairy Farmers will be pivotal and could be a confidence builder for a team who will likely need it. The Cowboys have lost their last three against the Titans, last five against the Storm and last four against the Broncos, making the Bulldogs a prime target if they are to knock off one of the top sides in the run to the finals.<br><b><br>Players to Watch:<br>Johnathan Thurston</b> – Arguably the best player in the NRL right now and the current Dally M leader, his impact on matches cannot be understated. Whether it be his attacking flair, kicking game, ability to set up a try or his hard working defence, the Cowboys captain is their go to guy.<br><br>Thurston is third in the NRL in points scored and second in try assists making him one very dangerous player. <br><br><b>Willie Tonga</b> – The speedy centre surprised a lot of people with his return to the Origin fold this year, but he looked like he'd never missed a game. Once thought to be injury prone, he has had a new lease of life at the Cowboys and is repaying the club in spades. <br><br>With Matt Bowen and Johnathan Thurston, Tonga forms a triumvirate of stars who can hurt you from anywhere on the field. His combined speed and strength make him one of the most lethal centres in the NRL and he is capable of mixing it the best of them.<br><br><b>Predicted finish:</b> 8th