How Cows died and rose again on third day

Three days in rugby league exile gave North Queensland the freedom to make the most unlikely charge to Sunday’s NRL grand final against Melbourne.

The story of the Cowboys’ run to the decider is well known. How their season was all but over after they lost to Brisbane in round 26, before they were saved when Canterbury upset St George Illawarra on the final day of the regular season.

How they upset both Cronulla and Parramatta in the first two weeks of the finals, before they were as composed as ever in Saturday’s preliminary final defeat of the Sydney Roosters.

And how they’ve done it all without injured co-captains and representative stars Johnathan Thurston and Matt Scott, although the latter may still return next week.

But what’s not so well known is how they spent the 68 hours between their potentially season-ending loss to the Broncos, and the Bulldogs win over the Dragons which saved their season.

“We were on the beers,” form halfback Michael Morgan quipped.

The morning after the Brisbane’ loss, they regrouped for a recovery and team review. Just in case.

Then they went their own way. That night, one of their second chances disappeared when Manly blew Penrith off the park.

It was all down to the Bulldogs.

Some players met that Sunday afternoon. Others watched it at home. Stand-in captain Gavin Cooper took his kids out for fish and chips and caught the last 10 minutes on his phone.

“We didn’t watch the Dogs game together or anything like that,” Morgan said.

“I remember I had one beer before the game and I thought I will just wait because if it goes our way you beauty, but if not I will have plenty of time to have beers in the break.

“We were all talking on our group chat and that sort of thing during the game and cheering on the Dogs.

“I think once they won, it was just like we thought to ourselves we’ve got a second chance here and have nothing to lose.”

It’s an attitude that has helped the Cowboys throughout the finals series, and given them a new lease on life according to Morgan.

And one they must now take into Sunday’s grand final against Melbourne.

“There was a bit of a buzz around the group and all of a sudden we had one win, two wins and now three wins,” he said.

“As a team we’ve been enjoying it. We had nothing to lose coming into the finals and it’s a good way to be, it’s a good headspace to be in.

“There’s no external pressure and we’ve just been enjoying it as a team, we’re a close group and a group that everyone is proud to be a part of.”

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