Contenders: Cowboy of the Year
2014 PAUL BOWMAN MEDAL CONTENDERS
Cowboys Presentation Ball, Friday 10 October, Jupiters Townsville
2013 winner: Matt Scott
Selection in the Kangaroos’ Four Nations train-on squad and the Australian Prime Minister’s XIII showed just how far Morgan came in season 2014.
Thrown into the fullback role – a position that was completely foreign to him – when Lachlan Coote suffered a season-ending knee injury in the NRL Auckland Nines, the 22-year-old was a revelation and ended up playing all 26 matches in the No.1 jersey, missing his only minutes when he came off with concussion in the final against Brisbane.
The 26 games he contested took his overall career total to 56 and was double his previous best figure for a season.
With 20 try assists, he ranked fifth in the NRL and he was equal fifth in the competition for linebreak assists (15), just two behind joint Dally M Medal winner Johnathan Thurston.
Thirteen linebreaks, often running off JT, ranked him second amongst all Cowboys, and he also crossed for 10 tries, many thanks to his clever kicking game close to the opposition try line.
The Cowboys members voted him as their 2014 Members' Player.
Undoubtedly the main man in the North Queensland forward pack, Scott again showed why he's regarded as one of the elite front-rowers in the game, not only shining at club level but also in representative footy for Australia and Queensland.
The only thing that was able to slow him down was a fractured cheekbone suffered in Origin II that kept him on the sideline for a month.
When he returned, the co-captain’s tremendous form was a big reason for the Cowboys winning eight of their last 10 matches.
Amazingly consistent, Scott was never held under 100 metres in attack all season and he smashed through the 150-metre barrier 12 times, highlighted by a performance that earned him a rare perfect 10 from Rugby League Week in round nine against Brisbane.
On that night, he ran for a season-high 237 metres with three linebreaks, a try and 27 tackles.
Scott’s metres per game average was No.1 for the Cowboys, 33m ahead of second-ranked Jason Taumalolo and 34m better than what he achieved in 2013.
He’s also proud of his career-best four-try haul.
All of this was achieved with a badly damaged shoulder that required an end-of-season reconstruction.
The statistics say it all about Taumalolo’s breakout year in the NRL which began with a key role in the Cowboys’ victory in the Auckland Nines.
After playing 14 NRL matches and starting just two in 2013, he upped his output to 25 matches with 23 starts this year.
The 12 matches for the Mackay Cutters in 2013 turned into no Intrust Super Cup appearances this time around and an end-of-season international debut for New Zealand in the Four Nations.
It might just be a coincidence, but his only two appearances not as run-on Cowboy in 2014 – away trips to Canberra and Newcastle – ended up in bad losses for North Queensland.
Taumalolo’s average of 142.5 metres per game was the second best for the Cowboys, trailing only co-captain Matt Scott, and was more than 50 metres ahead of what he averaged in 2013.
There was also a significant increase in tackles made – 15.1 to 20.8 – as he showed his worth in both aspects of the game.
Awesome to watch when he’s running the ball, his 77 tackle busts were No.1 for North Queensland.
Of all his eye-catching performances this year, it was a huge night against eventual premiers South Sydney away from home that was probably the best of all.
He scored a solo try and totalled a massive 191 metres.
Cowboys members and fans saw arguably JT’s best season in 2014 with virtuoso performance after performance helping his team to fifth place on the ladder, a finals win against Brisbane and, agonisingly, a one-point loss to the Roosters that ended this year's quest for the premiership.
At his inspirational and creative best, JT won a third Dally M Medal, this time sharing it with Parramatta’s Jarryd Hayne, a third RLPA Players’ Player Award, the Provans Summons Medal voted by the public and a host of media player of the year prizes.
In his first season under a new structure put in place by coach Paul Green, Thurston led the NRL in try assists and linebreak assists and even crossed for 11 tries of his own, equalling a personal best for tries in a season.
Other highlights included reaching 200 games for the Cowboys and setting a new club record for points in a season (234).
In the representative arena, the champion halfback/five-eighth extended his record for consecutive State of Origin appearances to 30 matches and he overtook Mal Meninga as the leading Origin point-scorer of all time.
At the start of the year, he clinched a second Golden Boot as international rugby league’s player of the year.