Cowboys in position to win: Alexander
It's been 10 years since their lone Grand Final appearance but the North Queensland Cowboys are in the best position in the club's history to win their inaugural premiership according to Fox Sports commentator Greg Alexander.
With the first half of the season to be completed after Round 13 this weekend the Cowboys sit atop the Telstra Premiership table alongside the Dragons and Broncos on the back of a nine-game winning streak, a club record.
On Monday night they travel to Parramatta to face an Eels team sitting at the opposite end of the ladder and with two byes to come in Round 14 and Round 18 are looking at a favourable run into the pointy end of the season.
The only time the Cowboys face a fellow top eight team between now and Round 23 is their Round 17 clash against the Dragons in Wollongong and, as Alexander points out in this week's issue of Big League, that gives them a wonderful opportunity to create history.
"A few weeks into the season you could have easily written both the Dragons and the Cowboys off," Alexander says in the Round 13 issue of Big League.
"The Cowboys were in a particularly dire position. With five minutes to go in their Round 4 match against the Storm it looked like they would drop their first three matches in Townsville, but they earned a one-point win at the death. Since then they haven’t lost a match.
"North Queensland’s draw over the next two months is unbelievable and they could finish Round 22 with an unassailable lead. This will be their best shot at the title in years."
As the competition approaches the halfway mark of the season Alexander has run his eye over those who are flying high and the teams with plenty of work ahead of them to qualify for the top eight.
While prepared to draw a line through a number of teams currently sitting outside the top eight, he has left the door slightly ajar for Manly to make what would be an extraordinary run from the bottom of the ladder and into the Finals Series.
"The sides at the bottom of the eight will only continue to improve and I don’t know that Parramatta, Canberra, Wests Tigers or Gold Coast have got the ammunition to topple the teams in there at the moment," Alexander says.
"Newcastle’s campaign is also virtually over. They have won just one of their past nine and I can’t see them turning it around.
"The one team at the bottom of the ladder that I’m not willing to put a complete line through is Manly. They’ve beaten Melbourne twice and with the quality of players they have they’ll be a challenge for any side.
"Even with all that talent, I find it very hard to believe they will win nine of their last 13 to stand any hope.
"If any team at the bottom can make a run though, it will be them. You just never know with that side."
The Sea Eagles were desperately unlucky not to knock off the Cowboys in Townsville last weekend and have to back up again in Queensland on Friday night when they take on the Broncos at Suncorp Stadium.
The Round 13 issue of Big League is on sale now from newsagents and at the ground. Digital version available through Zinio.