Destiny awaits for North Queensland with 2015 looming as the Cowboys’ best chance at breaking their NRL premiership duck.
The Cowboys head south to take on Brisbane in Saturday’s qualifying final knowing a win will not only give them a week off but hosting rights to a grand final qualifier in Townsville.
It’s an opportunity the club has never known – even in its best campaigns.
The 2005 team which went to the grand final finished fifth and had to play all four of their finals matches that season in Sydney.
The late Graham Murray then led the Cowboys to a third-place finish in 2007 but despite two wins at home a Sydney preliminary final was a step too far and Manly ended their hopes one game short of another grand final.
In recent times finals campaigns have been nothing but heartbreaking for the Cowboys.
Manly were again too good for the Cowboys in 2011, knocking them out of the competition in the first weekend of finals.
Then came the so-called “hand of Foran” incident in 2012 where the Sea Eagles were awarded a controversial try despite the Manly star appearing to knock on their way to a 22-12 victory.
Officials were front and centre again in 2013 when Cronulla eliminated the Cowboys in a match marred by a try awarded to the Sharks on what was actually the seventh tackle of a set.
Then last year the Cowboys were denied when captain Johnathan Thurston’s late try was ruled out for a marginal knock-on call, denying them a last-gasp win over the Sydney Roosters.
Despite those setbacks, Thurston is focusing on the opportunity that lies ahead for his team, sensing there is a real chance the Cowboys could walk away with the premiership they’ve longed for ever since joining the competition in 1995.
“It’s just such a great opportunity. We’ve worked extremely hard, since November last year, to put us in this position,” Thurston said.
“We’ve finished third on the ladder and now it’s about making the most of it.
“We’re not getting too ahead of ourselves but it starts on Saturday night against the Broncs.
“These are the opportunities that you need to make the most of.”