NORTH QUEENSLAND not only have to beat Manly tomorrow night to stay alive in the competition - they also have to buck a disturbing trend that shows they have a recent history of firing blanks in Sydney.
All away games, 23 wins, 50 losses, winning percentage 31.50; Games in Sydney, 6 wins, 26 losses, winning percentage 18.75; Source: David Middleton, League Information Services.
The Cowboys have never been renowned for having a great record outside of Townsville but their recent away record is far worse in Sydney than overall and that is anything but a confidence booster given that they play the Sea Eagles at Sydney Football Stadium.
Manly are unhappy that they have not been able to play the game at their home ground of Brookvale Oval but, given the statistics surrounding the Cowboys, it shouldn't matter a lot.
The last time North Queensland recorded reasonable results in Sydney was in 2005, when they made their one and only grand final. They had four wins and six losses in Sydney that year, including two wins and two losses during the finals series. Their overall record on the road that year was seven wins and nine losses.
Since then, they have been awful in the city, winning only six of 32 games for a success rate of only 18.75 per cent. Their overall away record during the past six seasons has been 23 wins and 50 losses, for a 31.5 per cent win ratio.
And the Cowboys can't count on any recent joy in the big smoke to give them some confidence as the seventh-placed team going in against the second-placed Sea Eagles, because they have lost their past five games in Sydney. North Queensland first hit the city this season in round four, when Parramatta beat them 22-20.
The Cowboys beat Cronulla 30-12 in round seven, but have since lost to St George Illawarra (22-8, round nine), Manly (24-4, round 14), Penrith (30-20, round 16), Canterbury (14-6, round 22) and South Sydney (26-24, round 24).
The Cowboys butchered the game against the Rabbitohs. They led by 12 points inside the final 10 minutes of normal time, but couldn't close it out from there and were forced into extra time. Souths then won with a penalty goal.
Had they won even just that game in Sydney, the Cowboys would have run fifth and would be playing Wests Tigers tonight instead of getting themselves caught up in a sudden-death encounter.
Their woes on the road have long been a source of frustration for the Cowboys, who over the years have used various measures in a bid to turn things around.
Coach Neil Henry thought after the win against the Sharks that they were heading in the right direction, when he said: ''We've won two (away) games and dropped one by two points to Parramatta after leading that game for large parts of it. It's good that we're on the road getting some results.''
However, since then the Cowboys have won just three of their nine away games overall and the five straight in Sydney.
A few of the Cowboys players have been in Sydney since Tuesday, for the Dally M awards function, and the rest of the team arrived on Wednesday.
They have had plenty of time to settle in, but whether that makes any difference to the result remains to be seen.
Read more: http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/rugby-league/league-news/cowboys-will-need-to-buck-the-trend-to-make-their-mark-in-sydney-20110908-1jzyz.html#ixzz1XOmJ3jgL