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Year 17 - 2011

A series of changes off the field helped to produce much-improved results on the field for the North Queensland Toyota Cowboys in 2011.

The club had a new CEO in Peter Jourdain, while Peter Parr reverted to the General Manager – Football position with Steve Mitchell installed as General Manager – Commercial.

Life member Paul Bowman became the head of a new high performance unit, while Peter Ryan joined the club as assistant coach.

A host of new signings had a positive impact on the NRL team, which beat arch-rivals Brisbane by two points in the season opener in a good pointer of what was to come for the remainder of the 2011 competition.

In round four, Matthew Bowen set a new club record for most games played when he made his 204th appearance, surpassing Paul Bowman’s 203 games, while Johnathan Thurston took over Josh Hannay’s record for most NRL points for North Queensland when he converted his own try against St George Illawarra in round nine.

The Cowboys spent much of the year in the top four before a late slide dropped them to seventh position for the finals series, their first since 2007.

In the qualifying final, North Queensland led Manly 8-0 at half time before being overrun by the Sea Eagles who went on to claim the premiership.

It was a disappointing way for the season to end but the increase in the number of victories from five in 2010 to 14 in 2011 showed how far the club had come in just 12 months.

For some individual players it was a year of triumph, with Willie Tonga, Johnathan Thurston and Matthew Scott all members of the Queensland State of Origin squad that clinched a record sixth consecutive victory against New South Wales.

Thurston and Scott played in all three games, while Tonga was injured in the first half of game one but bravely battled on to help the Maroons to victory.

Scott and Thurston played in Australia’s Test win against New Zealand in May, and were joined by Tonga for the victory against the Kiwis in Newcastle in October. Winger Kalifa Faifai Loa made his debut for New Zealand in that clash.

The quartet also won selection for the Four Nations tournament in the UK.

For Tonga, it was his last season at the Cowboys where he reignited his career by playing 63 matches during his three-year stay.

James Segeyaro and Ray Thompson made their debuts for Papua New Guinea, while Joel Riethmuller represented Italy for the first time in the European zone qualifiers for the 2013 World Cup.

In the Toyota Cup, North Queensland made the grand final for the first time after enjoying a superb season under coach Kristian Woolf.

The Cowboys finished the fixture rounds in second position and then convincingly defeated Wests Tigers and Cronulla in the finals series before losing the grand final to the NZ Warriors 31-30 in golden point extra-time.

Jason Taumalolo and Kyle Feldt were named in the Toyota Cup’s Team of the Year, with Taumalolo selected as the RLPA’s NYC Player of the Year.

Feldt and Moses Pangai were selected for the Junior Kangaroos, while Taumalolo, Michael Parker-Walshe and Wayne Ulugia were called up to play for the Junior Kiwis.

The Cowboys’ Intrust Super Cup affiliate club Northern Pride again made the finals, but were unable to successfully defend their 2010 premiership, losing to Tweed Seagulls in the preliminary final. The Mackay Cutters missed out on making the top six.

Off the field, the club was pleased to announce a three-year extension of its partnership with Toyota and the North Queensland Toyota Dealers, whose principal sponsorship will now move past the 10-year anniversary.

Crowd figures at Dairy Farmers Stadium were slightly up on the previous year’s attendances, helped by the team’s on-field success.

A sellout crowd of 26,463 – the largest since the ground was reconfigured – attended the Queensland derby against the Brisbane Broncos and the average for the season was 14,855.

New signings for 2012 include former Sydney Roosters grand final centre Kane Linnett and Northern Pride front-rower Luke Harlen, while Michael Parker-Walshe and Sam Hoare were promoted from the NYC squad to be full time members of the NRL squad.

Season statistics

• Captain(s): Johnathan Thurston, Matthew Scott, Aaron Payne
• Coach: Neil Henry
• Won 14, lost 10
• Points for: 532; points against: 480
• Top point scorer: Johnathan Thurston (162)
• Finished: 7th
• Cowboy of the Year: Ashley Graham
• Average home crowd: 14,855

Representative players

• Queensland State of Origin: Johnathan Thurston, Willie Tonga, Matthew Scott
• Australia: Johnathan Thurston, Matthew Scott, Willie Tonga
• New Zealand: Kalifa Faifai Loa
• Papua New Guinea: Ray Thompson, James Segeyaro
• Italy: Joel Riethmuller
• Australian Prime Minister’s XIII: Matthew Bowen