• The unsung heroes of the North Queensland Toyota Cowboys’ memorable NRL Auckland Nines victory were the high performance unit members who kept the squad as healthy and prepared as possible for their six matches in two days. It was a huge logistical challenge to keep the players’ bodies at their best considering the intensity of Nines football, the injuries that were sustained, sharing facilities with 15 other clubs and the short intervals between the matches. They came prepared for any circumstance on day two, including enough tape for four matches and plenty of Powerade and clean towels. What they couldn’t bring was six sets of jerseys, meaning most of our team wore the same jersey in all four games on Sunday.
• Four Cowboys – Kane Linnett, Antonio Winterstein, Gavin Cooper and James Tamou – were rewarded for their outstanding performance with selection in the Nines’ Team of the Tournament. They will each receive a tablet computer, as will Kyle Feldt who was named the Breakout Player of the Tournament after finishing as the equal-leading try scorer with Parramatta’s Semi Radradra. They each bagged five tries.
• Coops is renowned for how many stitches he receives during a season so it was no surprise when he stepped up to collect the Nines trophy with a cut on his left cheek. Nicknamed “Sausage Skin”, the Nines captain received three stitches in his wound to kick off his 2014 tally.
• Cowboys games record holder Matthew Bowen was a welcome guest at the celebration party in Auckland on Sunday night. In town with his Wigan teammates before heading to Sydney for the World Club Challenge, a very happy Mango dropped in to pass on his congratulations to his North Queensland mates. He also made an appearance in the team room on Friday. We wish him all the best against the Roosters on Saturday night.
• Just when they thought they’d conquered all their Nines challenges, the Cowboys were hit with another one on Monday. Delays getting through customs at Brisbane International Airport meant the Nines squad missed their connecting flight to Brisbane which was due to depart at 8.50am. They were re-booked on a 1.55pm flight before they hailed three maxi taxis to take them to a quickly arranged breakfast at a restaurant in nearby Eagle Farm. After starting the day with a 1am (Qld time) wake-up call to make their first flight, it made for a long day made easier because the Nines trophy was with them!
• Our Darling Downs members and fans will be able to meet the Cowboys at Toowoomba Toyota on Friday afternoon. The squad will be at the dealership between 4.30pm and 5.30pm and will be available for autographs and photos. We’ll have copies of the 2014 team poster to give away.
• The announcement of the squad to travel to Toowoomba is expected to be delayed until Wednesday to give the football department staff more time to assess who will be okay to back up from the Nines and to have a look at the video from last Saturday night’s Cutters v Pride trial in Townsville.
• This week’s birthday boys are NYC back Alex Grant and new NRL squad member Patrick Kaufusi who both turn 20 – Alex today and Patrick on Tuesday.