Squad Breakdown: North Queensland Cowboys top 17 analysed

Last year's NRL SuperCoach runner-up Tim Williams picks his top 17 at the Cowboys, including analysis and buy rating of every player.

Pre-season Squad Breakdown

Mystery surrounds North Queensland’s Round 1 starting line-up as they look to improve on a horrid season.

Coming off a poor campaign, they have a number of undervalued players that present early opportunity in SuperCoach.

Leading into the season we’ll take a look at every club’s predicted 17 to start the year, providing SuperCoach analysis on every single player as well as a rating for their round 1 buy credentials.

Here’s how we think the Cowboys will line up and whether or not it’s worth investing in their squad to kick-off the season.

If there’s a player who may miss the opening round or two, we’ve added them to the 17 with analysis for SuperCoach purposes.

Obviously there’s plenty to play out during the pre-season that’ll alter starting sides and buy ratings, so we’ll update this as frequently as possible as it all unfolds.

The Cowboys have the bye in Round 13 and play in Round 17.

Click on the player to reveal their analysis and Round 1 buy rating.

*Scroll down to the bottom of the page for a key on all SuperCoach relevant abbreviations.

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Ben Hampton $223,500 // CTW-5/8 // 2020 Ave: 25.2 // Rd 1 buy rating: 1/10

Hampton very well may not get named at 14, particularly with Cotter on the bench who is fairly versatile.

I just think Hampton gives the side so much balance in the event of injury across so many key positions.

Regardless, he won’t get the minutes to warrant consideration.

Reuben Cotter $356,100 // HOK // 2020 Ave: 40.2 // Rd 1 buy rating: /10

While far from confirmed, I get the idea Cotter will spend plenty of time at lock with maybe 15-20 minutes at hooker.

He started the final four rounds of 2020 at hooker and played 80 minutes, averaging a very solid 60.75PPG with 54.5BPG.

I won’t be starting with him, but if Robson goes down injured at all it’ll make Cotter a near must-have.

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Francis Molo $430,500 // FRF // 2020 Ave: 48.6 // Rd 1 buy rating: 2/10

Molo is a PPM beast, scoring at 1.25PPM in 39MPG last season.

The year prior it was 1.35PPM in 24MPG.

In a few longer stints last season he sustained it okay, but naturally it did reduce with more time.

He probably won’t see much more time than this, even if starting, but he’s one to monitor as the season progresses.

If he is named to start he’ll be worth a look, but the handicappers haven’t missed him at $430k. 

Lachlan Burr $338,500 // FRF // 2020 Ave: 38.2 // Rd 1 buy rating: 1/10

I’m not sure who the fourth bench spot will fall to as there’s a number of candidates, but I don’t see them getting the game time to figure in SuperCoach anyway.


MPG = Minutes per game

PPG = Points per game

PPM= Points per minute

BPG = Base per game (point accrued in tackles + runs + missed tackles)

POD = Point of difference

BREAKEVEN (B/E) = The score a player must record to earn a price rise.

*Please note all our stats are taken from the geniuses at nrlsupercoachstats.com

Valentine Holmes

$509,400 // FLB-CTW // 2020 Ave: 57.5 // Rd 1 buy rating: 7/10

I’ll start by saying, like everyone else, I’m unsure of how the Cowboys will line up in Round 1.

I’ll even be sceptical when the side is name on team list Tuesday.

However, I feel like Val will be named at fullback, with Drinkwater at 5/8, and Clifford out of the side.

This is far from certain, simply my gut feeling.

As such, my analysis for Val, who I’m very keen on, is based on that information.

If he’s named on the wing, it’d mean Clifford is in the team who would goal-kick, which is two huge daggers to Val and I wouldn’t consider him.

However, if named at fullback we are getting a SuperCoach star in the volatile CTW position which I feel is huge.

While I don’t rate the Cowboys this season, Val has a big ceiling and looks a great SuperCoach pick up at CTW, not so much FLB where there are better options.

In nine 80 minute games at fullback last season he averaged 66.55 points.

His average was brought down by two games on the wing, and an injury affected 27 minute game at fullback.

I think at fullback while goal-kicking he can average 65+ and have a pretty solid base which is very reassuring at CTW.

I know it’s a while back now, but once making the permanent mid-season move to fullback in 2018 at Cronulla he went on to average 88.4PPG across 11 games.

It’s a big if, but if he stays at fullback and kicks goals all season I see him as a set-and-forget CTW for the season.

I have to acknowledge the chance that if it does start this way that there’s no reason why it can’t change dramatically as early as round 2, so that’s the big risk in forking out over $500k for a CTW with question marks.

I can see him keeping the number one jersey once he gets it, but there’s every chance Drinkwater drops out (or isn’t named to start with) meaning Clifford would likely kick goals.

*Buy rating based on him starting Round 1 at fullback, while goal-kicking, with both decisions uncertain.

Kyle Feldt

$508,000 // CTW // 2020 Ave: 57.4 // Rd 1 buy rating: 3/10

It’s pretty remarkable that Feldt scored 19 tries in 20 games in an ordinary Cowboys side last season. The man knows how to find the mark.

It equated to his highest SC average in years, so it’s hard to see any value in him for Round 1.

His 26BPG is solid enough for a winger, but you’d want to see the Cowboys firing in attack before considering at all.

He only had two scores under 30 which is decent, but when you’re scoring at almost a try per game it makes sense.

If he jags the goal-kicking duties at any stage through injuries elsewhere it’d bring him into greater contention.

Esan Marsters

$429,600 // CTW // 2020 Ave: 48.5 // Rd 1 buy rating: 4/10

Esan has become a bit of a SuperCoach enigma, always scoring well when nobody owns, then hitting the skids whenever we buy.

When firing, he’s one of the best CTWs in SuperCoach, both base and attacking ability, but he just hasn’t quite put it together the past two seasons, while not exactly being bad.

His averages across the past four years were 48.5, 52, 61 and 53PPG.

His 28BPG was solid, but was substantially down on his big 2018 season where he had 33BPG.

In 12 games last season, he had 26 offloads and 24 tackle breaks which makes for impressive reading.

If the Cowboys can find some form I can see Marsters being very SuperCoach relevant at some stage, but I won’t be taking that gamble from Round 1. 

Justin O'Neill

$328,300 // CTW // 2020 Ave: 37.1 // Rd 1 buy rating: 3/10

O’Neill has never really been SuperCoach relevant outside of his eight games in 2019 where he scored eight tries for a 57PPG average.

He didn’t average above 37PPG in the three years either side of that.

His 22BPG is poor and he relies on tries which I’m not sure he’ll get in this side.

Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow

$339,800 // CTW-FLB // 2020 Ave: 38.4 // Rd 1 buy rating: 2/10

I’m not sure what’s happening with the Hammer, he played at centre in the trial game and was found out in defence on multiple occasions, so surely he doesn’t start there in Round 1?

You’d think he just gets unleashed with his blinding pace on the wing, out of the way of as much defensive action as possible, despite the key reads he’ll have to make on the sting.

He based under 20 in 11 of his 14 games last season, showing his reliance on try-scoring to put up decent SuperCoach points.

Job security is also an issue, pass.

Scott Drinkwater

$488,300 // FLB-5/8 // 2020 Ave: 55.1 // Rd 1 buy rating: 3/10

Drinkwater could be 5/8, fullback, bench or out of the squad completely come Round 1.

He linked up extremely well with Holmes in the second half of the trial win against Brisbane.

At the time, he was at 5/8 and Val was at fullback. He’s a defensive liability, but they looked sharp in attack while he was at five-eighth.

For SuperCoach purposes I hope he stays there, because it’ll likely mean Val is at fullback and kicking goals.

Drinky is a decent SuperCoach player, but with his serious lack of job security I can’t touch him to start the year.

Furthermore, with 20BPG he does have a reliance on attacking stats, which he’s well capable of finding, evidenced by just one score under 30 last season.

Maybe at some stage in 2021 if he and the side are firing, but not to start the year.

Michael Morgan

$386,700 // HFB-5/8 // 2020 Ave: 48.5 // Rd 1 buy rating: 5/10

If Morgan can stay fit he looks a decent proposition at a slightly awkward price.

He’s played 37 games across the past three seasons, including just six in 2020, hence his reduced starting price.

His last five seasons have produced averages of 48.5, 51, 44, 59 and 59PPG.

Clearly there’s upside there in a class footballer, but is he worth it with his recent injury history?

He’s priced on an average of 43.6PPG, so he’d have to average 51PPG to rise to $450k. 

That would make him $80k, but is that enough of a value rise for a Round 1 selection?

The fact he’s available as a dual HFB-5/8 is massive as he could be the man to fill that brutal reserve HFB spot we’re all trying to do.

Taking out his injury affected 14 minute game, he averaged 29.2BPG which is very solid for a halfback.

He also had a ton in his limited games in a show of his upside, although he didn’t have a ton in 20 games in the season prior.

I’m tempted, but I’m more likely to put him on the watch list in the opening two rounds and get him in if he fires before initial price rises occur.

Jordan McLean

$396,900 // FRF // 2020 Ave: 44.8 // Rd 1 buy rating: 2/10

McLean has never really been SuperCoach relevant.

He averaged 47MPG last season, scoring at an output of 0.96PPM with 43BPG.

He had three offloads last season and five tacklesbreaks, so he lacks any upside at all. 

Reece Robson

$491,700 // HOK // 2020 Ave: 55.5 // Rd 1 buy rating: 4/10

Robson could be an absolute SuperCoach star, but with Reuben Cotter fit and firing I think he’ll steal time off him at hooker.

Cotter played 80 minutes in the final four games of 2020 with Robson out, then spent time at lock in the recent trial game.

As such, I see Robson playing a 50-60 minute role which makes him hard to have (only an estimate, wait for further word before Round 1).

Last season he averaged 55.5PPG in 62MPG at 0.9PPM.

In six 80 minute games last season he averaged 79.17PPG!!!

This included a 116 point monster against the Roosters.

He has a solid workrate and huge attacking upside, scoring five tries last season.

If he does get that 80 minute role he would be a massive buy, but with Cotter lurking I’m reluctant to take the chance early on with many enticing options at hooker.

Josh McGuire

$564,300 // 2RF-FRF // 2020 Ave: 63.7 // Rd 1 buy rating: 4/10

The Moose has always been a bit of a quiet achiever in SuperCoach, producing recent averages of 63.7, 54, 51, 60 and 58PPG.

He’s not quite been in gun territory, but in 2020 he wasn’t far off it at all.

He averaged a monster 61BPG in 66MPG.

I can see him playing big minutes again this year, particular with news that Taumalolo will play reduced time, but it’ll all come down to the make up of the Round 1 bench.

If they do opt for a utility back like Hampton alongside Cotter it’ll bode well for McGuire.

Regardless, I think he’s priced close to his peak and it’s hard to see him playing more than his 66MPG from last season.

With just one score over 80 last season it suggests he doesn’t have a very high ceiling.

One to monitor throughout the year, but likely to just be off the premium FRF options once again.

Coen Hess

$454,700 // 2RF // 2020 Ave: 51.3 // Rd 1 buy rating: 2/10

Tom Gilbert started the final four rounds of 2020, but a leg fracture will likely see him miss the opening rounds of the season.

He impressed last year, so it creates concern over Hess’ starting role once he returns.

While on a try-scoring run as a boom rookie, Hess averaged 58PPG in 2017 and 2018, before regressing to 38PPG in 2019.

If he can recapture his best footy he can become SuperCoach relevant, but it looks a fair way off at this stage.

Even then, he’s not in the class of the elite 2RF options so there would be far better options.

Mitch Dunn

$341,800 // 2RF // 2020 Ave: 38.6 // Rd 1 buy rating: 3/10

Dunn averaged 65MPG last season, scoring at a very ordinary output of 0.59PPM.

With question marks over his starting role going forward, it’s hard to make a case for him even at the price.

In 17 games last season, he had 34BPG, three offloads and 10 tacklebreaks, pass.

Jason Taumalolo

$641,700 // 2RF // 2020 Ave: 72.4 // Rd 1 buy rating: 7/10

In an interview with NRL.com, Cowboys coach Todd Payten had the following to say on JT’s minutes:

“Jase is here for another six or seven years so we have to treat him like a long-term investment.

“There are improvements in his game and that’s around his defensive efforts. But Jase has been left on the field for 60-70 minutes at a time, for a big man he’s going to have to cut some corners somewhere to get through the time.

“Our mindset as coaches is we’re going to ask for more quality than quantity for him.

This to me suggests he may be set to regress from his 61MPG in 2020 to around the 55-60MPG in 2021.

It may not have an enormous impact on him as he’s likely to up his workrate in slightly reduced time.

That being said, for a bloke who often takes two hit ups per set I’m not sure how he’d go about doing that.

He’ll be a set-and-forget keeper at some stage, but trying to fit the likes of he, Matterson and Crichton into your Round 1 side is hard to do.

The other two premium 2RF options will play 80 minutes, so can you make a case for a 55 minute Taumalolo in what’s likely to be a far more inferior Cowboys side? I can’t.

Last season he scored at a monster 1.18PPM with 59BPG.

I won’t get into the nitty gritty of his stats because we know how good he is and that he has a high ceiling.

I’m certainly not against anyone starting with him, I just don’t think I’ll be able to fit him in just yet.

3 Responses to “Squad Breakdown: North Queensland Cowboys top 17 analysed”

    • Sorry mate, missed that! 4/10, possibly a bit harsh, I’m just not overly high on the Cows this season.

      That being said, if they do fire (which is possible), Marsters is one guy who’s shown he’s capable of finishing as a top 4 CTW by end of season.

      So if you like the Cows, he is a very sneaky POD with upside.

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