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Year 15 - 2009

Season 2009 was an improvement on 2008 for the North Queensland Toyota Cowboys with 11 wins from 24 games giving 26 points.

However, the closeness of the 2009 NRL competition meant 26 points translated into a disappointing 12th place finish.

An indication of the intensity of the season is that grand finalists Parramatta finished in eighth place on 29 points, just one win and a draw better than the Cowboys.

Despite finishing outside the top eight, the club achieved a positive for- and-against points record for the season.

2009 signings included Queensland and Australian representatives Willie Tonga (Bulldogs), Antonio Kaufusi (Storm) and Shannon Hegarty (Souths), while Neil Henry took up the head coaching position and the club also welcomed back strength and conditioning coach Billy Johnstone.

Pre-season trial matches were affected by the North Queensland wet season with some of the club's regional support base suffering intense flooding in February.

The round 1 local derby against the Brisbane Broncos took place at Suncorp Stadium in front of 45,022-strong crowd, the second biggest crowd recorded for the 2009 NRL season.

Losing by one point in that opening round was disappointing but the first home game a week later resulted in a healthy win over the West Tigers and set the scene for an exciting season.

By mid season the club sat firmly in the top 8 and the prospect of a strong finish was very much alive, but some close losses and costly injuries on the back end of the season saw a disappointing finish for the Cowboys, slipping just three points outside the eight.

Despite the disappointing finish, there were many positives to come out of season 2009.

The U20s side improved in the NYC finishing in ninth spot, just missing out on a top 8 spot.

The emergence of promising young talent in the NRL squad was also a highlight, with Innisfail’s Scott Bolton and New Zealanders James Tamou and Steve Rapira cementing NRL spots and showing their enormous potential for the club.

A healthy average home crowd of just over 17,000 also maintains the Cowboys' place in the top echelon of clubs for home ground support.

The down side was the loss of key players to long term injuries, with Matt Bowen again undergoing off season surgery, Aaron Payne out from round 17 with a shoulder injury and experienced campaigners including Luke O’Donnell, Ashley Graham, Ben Harris, Clint Amos and Matt Scott unavailable at various stages throughout the season.

At season end the club farewelled front rower Shane Tronc, who joins the Wakefield Trinity Wildcats in the UK, while Ben Farrar was part of a mid season swap with Michael Bani from Manly.

Despite missing games through injury, Luke O’Donnell was awarded Player of the Year (Paul Bowman Medallist) while forward Clint Amos was a popular choice as Club Person of the Year in recognition of his valuable community work undertaken while recovering from injury.

Season statistics

  • Captains: Johnathan Thurston, Aaron Payne
  • Coach: Neil Henry
  • Won 11, lost 13
  • Points for 558, points against 474
  • Top points scorer: Johnathan Thurston - 202
  • Finished 12th
  • Player of the Year: Luke O’Donnell
  • Average home crowd: 17,309

    Representative players

  • Johnathan Thurston, Matt Scott, Willie Tonga – Qld State of Origin
  • Luke O’Donnell – NSW State of Origin
  • Australia (including Four Nations tournament in UK/France) – Johnathan Thurston
  • Johnathan Thurston (c), Luke O’Donnell, Matt Scott – PM X111 v PNG
  • Neil Henry – Qld State of Origin Assistant Coach
  • Billy Johnstone – Qld State of Origin Trainer