Fortune finally favours the Cowboys

Last weekend might have heralded the start of spring but it's unlikely anyone in Townsville stepped out to enjoy the conditions as they sat nervously on the couch hoping results went their way to ensure the Cowboys qualified for a seventh-straight finals series. 

‌Following North Queensland's loss to the Broncos on Thursday night, fans were hoping Penrith would do them a favour by beating the Sea Eagles on Saturday night, but instead they watched on as Manly comfortably got the job done, but not by a big enough margin to see the Cowboys leapfrog the Panthers on points differential. 

As a result, North Queensland's fate came down to the penultimate game of the season with Paul Green's men cheering on the Bulldogs to upset the Dragons who only needed to win to secure a finals berth.

There were no fingernails left up north when the Red V shot out to a second-half lead, but late tries to Aiden Tolman and Michael Lichaa turned the game on its head allowing the Bulldogs to snatch an unlikely win that saw the Cowboys clinch eighth spot.

If the weekend was tough on the fans then you can only imagine what it was like for the playing group who were 80 minutes away from end-of-season festivities or pre-game planning for a showdown with the Sharks. 

Tense? Hardly, according to captain Gavin Cooper. 

"I was at home but I wasn't watching the game on Saturday. I was just flicking through the channels and occasionally stopped on the footy to check the scores," Cooper told NRL.com at the Finals series launch at ANZ Stadium. 

"I didn't realise the couple of scenarios that were playing out in that game, but once I saw that the Panthers were losing by a fair bit I turned it off and then switched it back on when I heard the other scenario to see if they'd lost by enough for us to leapfrog them. 

"It was a pretty roller-coaster afternoon because yesterday I didn't watch all of the Dragons game. I only watched the last 10 minutes on my phone while I was eating some fish and chips with the family. It was a pretty good afternoon in the end.

"I couldn't control the outcome so it didn't make a difference if I watched or not. I was always going to check the scores but I don't think I could have sat through both games. It was a funny weekend having your fate in other people's hands."

The Cowboys have endured a wretched run of injuries in 2017 with stars Johnathan Thurston and Matt Scott missing the bulk of the season while their injury ward has seen players come and go on a weekly basis.

Despite the setbacks, they've been brave each and every week and deserved a bit of luck to go their way, but Cooper knows that attitude won't get them far against the Sharks on Sunday afternoon.   

"I was happy because we've finally got a bit of luck after what's been a tough little run," he said. 

"No one deserves to make the top eight; you have to earn your right to be here. We've played some good footy this year and we've also played some dumb footy. This week it's hopefully the good footy that comes out because if you play dumb footy at this stage of the year then you'll be out of the competition before you know it. 

"It's special to be in the finals because we've got a few boys who haven't played finals footy before, let alone 10 first grade games. This is a totally different group to the guys who made finals runs in the last few years so this will be a good weekend. 

"There are no excuses from our point going forward; we've put ourselves in this position, we've made it, we've done pretty well to get here but we're not finished yet. A lot of people won't give us a shot and I kind of like it that way.

"We finished eighth and we got in because somebody else won when we needed them to. People can call us brave or whatever but as a group we believe that we've still got plenty of good footy left in us."