THE Cowboys have earned the respect of Australian rugby league for how they have fought manfully to overcome their loss of Johnathan Thurston for the rest of the season.
But a Fox Sports Stats survey of performances in the past four weeks reflects fully just how difficult life without JT has been.
Despite the success of Michael Morgan at halfback, only three teams have scored fewer tries than the Cowboys’ 2.8 tries per game over the past four rounds.
And only three sides have made fewer line breaks in that time than North Queensland’s 3.5 per game.
The Cowboys rank ninth over the season for tries scored, with 3.3 per game.
One light of hope is cast by the 2.8 per line break average of their Saturday opponents Cronulla, who ranked 15th in the category.
The Sharks, who need a win to stabilise their top-four campaign as earnestly as the Cowboys need a victory to hold eighth spot, averaged three tries per game in the past four weeks.
It’s vital that Morgan is cleared to play despite a head knock which removed him from the steering wheel of the team in the second half of their loss in Perth last Saturday.
The Cowboys have a 6-3 win-loss record in Townsville, including a three-game winning streak at home. They have lost three times to Cronulla since the Sharks last visited Townsville, in 2016.
ON THE CHARGE
The NRL’s form attacking teams and individuals will be out in force at Suncorp Stadium on Friday night.
Over the past four rounds, no team has scored more tries per game than Brisbane’s six, with the Dragons second with 5.5.
Dragon Jason Nightingale has scored the most tries, five, of any player in that period, with Broncos Ben Hunt and James Roberts among those with four tries.
The Dragons forwards are ranked No. 1 by Fox Sports Stats for run metres with 1529m per game, with Brisbane (1525m) second.
St George Illawarra are ranked top as well for line breaks (6.2) and tackle busts (35.7) per game, with Brisbane third in both categories.
The Dragons have won once only in their past 10 clashes with the Broncos, but are playing with more freedom and ingenuity in attack than in many previous seasons since their 2010 premiership win under the coaching of Wayne Bennett.