North Queensland endured a rocky start to life without Johnathan Thurston and were made to watch the finals from afar for a second straight year.
Losing superstar Thurston to retirement created an irreplaceable gap but there was still a sense of optimism heading into the season.
The signing and subsequent sacking of Ben Barba was all over before round one while the other marquee recruit, Josh McGuire, created an impact up front but also courted his fair share of controversy with his aggressive style of play.
Scoring points was the side's biggest problem. The Cowboys scored the third-least number of points (378). Only the Bulldogs and wooden spoon-winning Titans scored fewer.
Home & Away
Home record: 5-7. Away record: 4-8.
The Cowboys played four of their opening five games at 1300SMILES Stadium in Townsville but were on the back foot after managing just one win in that time.
Consecutive wins over the Panthers and Bulldogs to finish up the home season saved some face.
As the home team, North Queensland averaged 18.8 points for and 20.1 against (competition averages: 21.4 for and 18.1 against).
The Paul Green-coached side struggled on the road, averaging just 12.7 points per game (average: 18.1) while conceding 21.6.
North Queensland ranked eighth for post-contact metres (PCM) per game (465) and equal-sixth per run (2.63).
As usual, Jason Taumalolo was a monster in this department, coming in second across the competition with 1230 PCM. Only Broncos prop Payne Haas (1438) was better.
However, Taumalolo missed six matches through injury, whereas Haas played an additional two regular-season games.
Defensively, the Cowboys conceded the fourth-most PCM per game (483) and third-most per carry (2.75).
Tries scored - attacking channels
The Cowboys were reliant on their right edge for points, scoring 32 of their 63 tries (51%) down the right and centre-right channels.
Nineteen four-pointers were scored in the left and centre-left channels (30%) and 12 through the middle (19%).
For the fourth consecutive year, winger Kyle Feldt (11) topped the team's try-scoring list. He was followed by centre Justin O'Neill (8).
Tries conceded - defensive channels
Thirty-seven (43%) of the 87 tries conceded by North Queensland came down the left and centre-left channels.
Another 33 (38%) came in the right and centre-right channels and 17 (19%) were scored in the middle.
Second-rower Coen Hess was responsible for the most try causes with 20, followed by fellow edge forward Gavin Cooper (16).
Tries conceded from penalties
The Cowboys conceded the equal-least tries from penalties with 20, level with premiers the Roosters, Cronulla and Brisbane.
That accounted for 23% of their total tries conceded.
North Queensland were penalised 139 times, with hooker Jake Granville (14) the chief offender.
Metres gained from offload
With an average of 55, the Cowboys ranked 14th for metres gained from offloads per game.
However, this can largely be put down to North Queensland's hesitance to promote the footy - they ranked 12th with 215 offloads for the season.
The Cowboys kicked 61 goals from 84 attempts for a success rate of 72.6%. (Penrith set the benchmark at 88%.)
Jordan Kahu was their most accurate kicker with 40 goals from 54 attempts at 74.1%.
If the Cowboys had a perfect goal-kicking record, they would have moved up one spot to 13th.
Squad retention v competition points
The top five teams last season all retained more than 45% of their 2017 squads, supporting the argument that clubs with less player turnover benefit from greater cohesion.
North Queensland were the outlier. Despite retaining more than 55% of their 2017 squad - second only to minor premiers Melbourne - they collected just 20 competition points.
North Queensland had an unlucky year on the injury front, using 30 players throughout the year as a result - the equal-third highest amount.
Peter Hola, Murray Taulagi and Reuben Cotter made their NRL debuts while Scott Drinkwater, Mitchell Dunn and Shane Wright were also considered rookies.
Linebreaks from missed tackles
The Cowboys averaged 31.7 missed tackles per match. On average, 5.5 of their misses led to a linebreak.
Only the last-placed Titans (5.8) had a worse rate.