As the long break-up of North Queensland’s most successful NRL team continues, interim coach Josh Hannay says the Cowboys can draw motivation for their rebuild from Penrith.
Gavin Cooper and John Asiata will both play their final home games for the Cowboys against the table-topping Panthers in Townsville on Friday night.
Their impending departures at the end of 2020 mean just five players from North Queensland’s inaugural premiership team in 2015 will be at the club next year.
Premiership coach Paul Green was also sacked in July with Todd Payten to take up the reins from next season.
Of the five grand final winners, only Michael Morgan, Jason Taumalolo and winger Kyle Feldt are still automatic first-choice players with Jake Granville and Justin O’Neill in-and-out of the team in 2020.
Hannay says there’s no doubt the Cowboys, who will go without finals football for a third straight year, are in a transition from the club’s best period.
« There’s been a number of players who have left the club in the last few years who have been wonderful servants to the club, » Hannay said.
« Played a big part in, without a doubt, the club’s most successful era. Winning the premiership, making another grand final.
When it comes to the future, Hannay believes the Cowboys can do worse than follow the Panthers’ blueprint for using local junior talent to build a dominant team.
Penrith are chasing a 14th straight win when they face North Queensland and have stormed into premiership contention with a core of players led by halfback Nathan Cleary who have progressed through the club’s junior ranks.
Of their 17 to play the Cowboys, 13 have come through the under-20s program including Cleary, who Hannay said was among the best players in the game at the moment.
« They as a club are starting to see the fruits of the work they’ve put in over the last few years by developing their own, » Hannay said.
« We’d like to think we’ve got a great nursery up here as well and that we can hopefully in the future replicate what Penrith are doing at the moment. »
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