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Townsend signing can unlock Holmes and Cowboys

There's nothing quite like a big-name signing to lift spirits at a club and that's exactly what the Cowboys got this week when experienced playmaker Chad Townsend agreed to terms from 2022 onwards.

Here's a bloke who helped Cronulla break the game's most famous premiership drought in 2016 and is fast closing in on 200 NRL games across two stints at the Sharks and two years at the Warriors in 2014-15.

A bloke whose composure and game management will be the perfect foil for rapidly improving five-eighth Scott Drinkwater and manna from heaven for rookie head coach Todd Payten.

Already walking a bit taller after back-to-back wins over Wests Tigers and the Bulldogs, Payten will be feeling even better about things with the knowledge 'cool hand Chad' is on his way north next year.

"We have made no secret of our intentions to secure a senior half after we lost our captain Michael Morgan to retirement," Payten said on Wednesday.

"We were looking for a composed, organising halfback who can steer the team around the park and I believe we have found that in Chad.

Emotional Townsend reveals why he signed with Cowboys

"He is a gifted kicker of the football, tackles well and is a strong voice on the field, which were three areas we highlighted when entering the market for a half."

That strong voice is sure to resonate with classy No.1 Valentine Holmes, another member of Cronulla's 2016 premiership side who should relish the opportunity to join forces with good mate Townsend again.

After starting the season on the wing, Holmes has found top gear since moving to his preferred fullback position in round three and his 219 running metres, seven tackle breaks and a try assist were instrumental in the Cowboys' 30-18 win over the Bulldogs.

Still only 25 and already with 123 NRL games, 13 Tests and seven Origins to his name, Holmes has a golden opportunity to put his names up in lights alongside James Tedesco, Ryan Papenhuyzen and Tom Trbojevic when talk turns to the game's elite fullbacks. 

With Townsend and Drinkwater calling the shots, Holmes chiming in from the back and Reece Robson scheming out of dummy half, the Cowboys spine takes on a dangerous look for next season.

Throw in the elite Jason Taumalolo and the exciting Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow and it's clear Payten has plenty to work with as he looks to return the Cowboys to the glory days of 2015-17 when they won one grand final, made another and got within one game of a third.

In the meantime, the challenge for Payten is continue the momentum of the past fortnight as he plots an upset of Ricky Stuart's Raiders on Saturday and then turns his attention to an eight-game stretch which could set the Cowboys up for a run at the finals.

After a trip to Gosford to face Payten's old team the Warriors in round eight, the Cowboys host the Broncos the following week before a Magic Round showdown with the Roosters in Brisbane.

Cowboys v Raiders - Round 7

Two home games follow against the Knights and Warriors before a bye in round 13 and then it's the Sea Eagles, Sharks and Knights again.

With things starting to click into gear after a sluggish 0-4 start and the likes of Francis Molo, Lachlan Burr, Corey Jensen and Mitchell Dunn stepping up big time in Taumalolo's absence, Payten would be targeting five wins from those eight games to move to 7-7 with nine games to play.

Back in 2019, the last time we played a full 24-game season, 11 wins was enough to get the Broncos into eighth spot and that seems a realistic goal for the Cowboys now that they've found winning form and have an optimistic glint in their eye with news that one of the game's ultimate professionals is on his way to Townsville in 2022.


The views in this article do not necessarily express the opinions of the NRL, ARL Commission, NRL clubs or state associations.


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