Cowboys INSIDER

• Cyclone Ita was more than 2000km away but it still managed to have an impact on the Toyota Cowboys at the weekend. Our NRL and NYC squads were forced to spend an extra night in Sydney after their flights home on Sunday were cancelled with the closure of Townsville Airport in the wild weather. The NRL team will eventually make it back to Townsville at 6.30pm on Monday, around 28 hours later than expected, but they didn’t let the delay hamper their preparations for Friday night’s clash with Manly. Post-match recovery took place as planned on Sunday morning and the team review session scheduled for Monday went ahead on Sunday night. Instead of a direct flight to Townsville, the team had two flights, with a four-hour stopover in Brisbane, on Monday afternoon. With very few empty seats on flights back to North Queensland, the NYC squad had to split up into three groups, with the last players not making it back home until late on Monday.

• There was some downtime for the players on Sunday afternoon with many of them finding a TV to watch the Manny Pacquiao v Timothy Bradley title fight. Co-captain Johnathan Thurston had a haircut and another group caught up with former teammate James Segeyaro.

• Antonio Winterstein’s hamstring injury has ruined his chances of playing international football early next month. The Cowboys winger, who is out for four to six weeks, would have been a strong contender for a wing berth for New Zealand against Australia at Allianz Stadium in Sydney. Had he missed selection for the Kiwis, he would definitely have retained his place in the Samoan squad to play Fiji in the Four Nations qualifier at Penrith. Winterstein has only missed two matches in the last two seasons.

• Don’t forget Friday night’s clash with Manly has been switched to Gosford from Brookvale Oval. In a rarity for the Cowboys, they’ll be live on Channel Nine/NBN/WIN in New South Wales, but it’s a delayed telecast in Queensland.

• Johnathan Thurston has some early ground to make up if he’s to contend for a third Dally M Medal. He has four points after six rounds to be six behind Canterbury’s Josh Reynolds. Robert Lui and Jason Taumalolo are the next best Cowboys on three points.

• Congratulations to Spirit cheerleader Brittany who has advanced to the final 16 of Big League magazine’s Cheerleader of the Year competition. You’ll be able to vote for her again later in the season when she comes up against the finalist from one of the other 15 clubs.

• Our stats leaders from Saturday night’s loss to Wests Tigers: most metres – Brent Tate (137m); most offloads – Brent Tate (7); most tackle busts – Brent Tate (5); most tackles – Ray Thompson (45).

• Jason Taumalolo will hit the airwaves with Ashton Sims this week on the Hot FM breakfast show with Cliffo and Tianna. Tune in on Wednesday morning.

• Our players are becoming very inventive with their trickshots for the WIN News Locker Room segment. This week it’s Matthew Wright’s turn to show what he’s got. You can see the results in Wednesday night’s bulletin around 7.15pm.

• The NRL Auckland Nines event, won by the Cowboys in February, has been globally recognised in its first year with a prestigious sporting award. The Nines won Best Home-Grown Event in the SportBusiness International Awards for 2014. The awards, which are held every two years, are internationally recognised for ranking the best sports cities and events.

• The Nines trophy will be on show at Don West Toyota in Ayr from Friday. You’ll be able to pop into the dealership and get your photo taken with the club’s first piece of NRL silverware until 24 April.

• The Townsville Stingers are safely through to the semi-finals in both the under-16 Cyril Connell Cup and under-18 Mal Meninga Cup later this month. The under-16s will play Gold Coast White and the under-18s will take on Wynnum-Manly. North Queensland has two other semi-final representatives with Northern Pride to duel with Souths Logan in the other Cyril Connell Cup semi-final, while the Mackay Cutters will play Norths in the Mal Meninga Cup.