Is this Cowboys side the greatest?

Johnathan Thurston says this Cowboys team is better than last year’s.
Johnathan Thurston says this Cowboys team is better than last year’s. MICK TSIKAS

BACK in 1963, when Muhammad Ali - then Cassius Clay - declared to the world, "I am the Greatest", he was perceived as a loud mouth with an oversized opinion of himself.

And even 20 years later, when rising Queensland cricketer Greg Ritchie revealed he had that same proclamation stuck on his bedroom wall and away from the public glare, it still wasn't considered cool.

Self-praise and super confidence has never endeared anyone to Australians. We tend to regard them as having tickets on themselves, and Aussies are mighty quick to adopt the tall poppy syndrome.

That is why it was reassuring - and also refreshing - to hear brilliant skipper Johnathan Thurston publicly singing the praises of the 2016 model of the Cowboys.

A week ago Thurston unequivocally rated the premiers better than the side that won last year's gripping and historic grand final, and 24 hours later he led them to an almost faultless performance against the Rabbitohs. And in his case it was not over-confidence or cockiness - it was sheer belief.

Some will say the 44-18 win was not comprehensive, but the scoreboard lied. The two late Bunnies' tries were against the run of play, and tinged with luck.

In every sense of the word, the win was superb and even though they have lost two of their seven games played this season very few good judges doubt the Cowboys are a better team than last year.

As premiers, they are the benchmark, and the hunted. And it will happen again on Saturday night as the improving Eels try to go back to back against them this season. That, however, won't happen. Not on Thurston's watch anyway, and not at home.

Once fragile in Townsville, the Cowboys have been ruthless at home this season having won all four games, scoring 144 points to 32.

That 18 of those 32 points were conceded last weekend gives much relevance to Thurston's claim that his team is better, ostensibly because of more resolve in their defence. As skipper he knows - and he has never been one to waffle, despite his laid-back demeanour and his iconic laugh.

But the burning question remains - will this superb form last? If, as is being speculated, as many as 10 Cowboys will be involved in the upcoming rep footy, will they survive the rough terrain that lies ahead?

Only time will tell, and JT's honesty will be the barometer.

Yes, yes, yes

Bill Harrigan's call to referees to make an on-field judgment is spot on. Their indecision is embarrassing.

No, no, no

The loss of Roger Tuivasa-Scheck for the season is akin to leaving the Ferrari in the garage for 12 months. Bye bye Warriors.

Topics:  johnathon thurston north queensland cowboys nrl tony durkin

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