Former Australian and NSW gun Timana Tahu's only new to Group 11 but the star Wellington signing is confident the Cowboys will only get better following a stunning 28-10 dismantling of competition leaders Dubbo CYMS.
Played in front of a huge Kennard Park crowd on Saturday, the Cowboys led from start to finish to inflict the Fishies with their first loss of the 2019 season.
Dave Dryden opened the scoring in the 11th minute and half Josh Griffiths capped the win with a second-half double as the hosts completed their best outing of the season and inch closer to breaking a premiership drought that spans back to 1994.
Tahu was still five years off debuting in the NRL when Wellington defeated Parkes in an absolute points-fest in the 1994 decider but the veteran outside back will bring a wealth of experience to the Cowboys this campaign.
Saturday's 18-point win was the club's first victory over CYMS since a 36-24 triumph in round 14 of the 2015 season and, in an ominous warning for Wellington's Group 11 rivals, Tahu believes it's only the start for the Cowboys in 2019.
COWBOYS VERSUS CYMS PHOTOS: All the action from the top-of-the-table Group 11 clash at Kennard Park
"I reckon we can improve by 50 per cent," Tahu said.
"The intensity is there and the want is there, it's just getting the boys into that structure and into position.
"The small towns worry about the physicality; the one-out bash-bash-bash ... but once you get to the city there's more structure and it's a bit smarter.
"You can still be aggressive and run hard, tackle hard, but there's times when you can conserve energy.
"We did that a bit today, tacking as a group and slowing the play-the-ball and I think it's a start, especially putting that many points past CYMS, not many do that."
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Tahu will play as often as his schedule allows in 2019 after having his registration rubber stamped late last week.
He joined the club as Wellington Aboriginal Corporation Health Service ambassador but decided to play with mates Travis Waddell and Griffiths already in Justin Toomey-White's line-up.
Wellington started the better of the two sides in their round eight match-up and enjoyed first points when Dryden barged his way over from close range.
Powerhouse CYMS centre Corey Cox got the Fishies on the board soon after though and the score remained 6-4 for the rest of the opening half, despite the hosts enjoying a one-man advantage for 10 minutes after the sin-binning of Caleb Binge in the first term.
The momentum swung early in the second half and CYMS applied the blow torch to Wellington's goal-line defence for a period to open proceedings but a bone rattler from impressive young Wellington prop James Stanley turned the tide.
Mac Dutfield scored the first try of the second half shortly after and then four minutes later Mason Williams sliced through to nudge the Cowboys out to a commanding 18-4 lead after 55 minutes.
Viliame Turuva crossed under the sticks for the Fishies with 12 minutes remaining to give the visitors hope at 18-10 down, but the optimism was short lived.
Griffiths scored in the 72nd and 77th minutes while Williams nailed a penalty goal in the shadows of full-time after CYMS centre Jyie Chapman was sin binned in the final minute for a professional foul, rounding out the scoring at 28-10.
The only thing missing from the match was a Tahu try - and the old crossbar slamdunk.
"It might be more of a lay-up now," the 38-year-old laughed.
"Those days are gone now. These legs conserve energy now.
"To win today, that's why I've signed. I want to help this place and shine a positive light on this place, the team and the community. Today we achieved that and I' so happy for the staff.
HT | Tahu honest in opening half in #Group11. Few nice touches and has threatened a couple of times down Cows left edge.— Nick McGrath (@nickmcgrath4) June 22, 2019
Really, though, marking Jyie Chapman is a nightmare first-up for the former NSW and Australian gun - the CYMS star is all over him.
"I came here at 9.30 this morning with Darren (Ah-see) and the set-up people here early ... that's who we're playing for. Everyone counts and everyone is going home happy."
Toomey-White said a win like Saturday's has been coming for a while now but rather than laud his side's unquestionable star power the Cowboys mentor praised his team's "unsung heroes".
Guys like Dutfield and replacement Brogan Black were terrific, as was veteran rake Dennis Moran around the ruck.
"It's very satisfying, the result," Toomey-White added.
"We've been working hard at training and our defence has been winning us games and today it was defence that won it for us again."
"Early on we were just going side-to-side too much. We were a bit clunky. Once we pushed through the middle we got some good results from that."
- WELLINGTON COWBOYS 28 (Josh Griffiths 2, Dave Dryden, Mac Dutfield, Mason Williams tries; Mason Williams 3, Brock Naden goals) def DUBBO CYMS 10 (Viliame Taruva, Corey Cox tries; Alex Bonham goal)
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