North Queensland second-rower Jason Taumalolo says the introduction of feeder club Townsville Blackhawks has been a major part of the Cowboys’ NRL success this season.
In just their first year in the competition, the Blackhawks have the chance to claim some silverware in Sunday’s Intrust Super Cup grand final against the Ipswich Jets at Suncorp Stadium.
But their introduction has also reinforced the Cowboys’ foundations and given them a greater level of depth.
Taumalolo told AAP it has made a night-and-day difference to North Queensland’s NRL set-up.
“We’ve had guys filling in during Origin and we won all our games, pretty much, at that time,” he said.
“We didn’t have Johnno (Thurston) or Matt Scott and that says a lot about our team and what we do on the training paddock.
“We’ve got guys that go back from the Cowboys and they take that mentality that we have here back to the Blackhawks.
“They play great footy, they’ve got a great coach in Kristian Woolf and there’s a few under-20s players that used to play here, the year they made the (Holden Cup) grand final (2011).”
The formation of the Blackhawks, alongside existing feeder clubs Northern Pride and Mackay Cutters, has meant the Cowboys have been able to split their unused NRL players three ways.
Woolf said on average, he has had to accommodate no more than four or five players per week – compared to previous years when as many as eight or nine would go back to their Intrust Super Cup sides.
The new arrangement has worked out significantly better for everyone, Woolf said.
“When you only factor that many in it’s not as disruptive for us or the Cowboys and that’s certainly helped,” he told AAP.
“It’s allowed us to be a part of building the depth underneath the Cowboys as well – we recruit good players to the Townsville district, as do Cairns and Mackay, and hopefully those players progress through to the first grade.”