North Queensland are officially the NRL Nines kings, becoming the first club to win the pre-season tournament twice with an impressive weekend of thrills and spills in Perth.
The Cowboys' popgun attack in 2019 saw them register their fewest points in a season since 1998, but Paul Green's star-studded side fired all the way to a 23-14 win over fellow surprise packets St George Illawarra in the final.
Along the way skipper Jason Taumalolo ran riot, Scott Drinkwater carved up and 18-year-old rookie Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow threw down an impressive claim to being rugby league's fastest man.
Tabuai-Fidow – who ran the 100 metres in 10.85 seconds as a 16-year-old – stole the show with several runaway tries on the second day of the tournament.
Drinkwater was crowned player of the tournament for his brilliance throughout, staking a bold claim for a halves start alongside Michael Morgan come round one, though fellow No.6 contender Jake Clifford starred in the final with a try and stunning cover tackle in which he pantsed a runaway Jason Saab.
Drinkwater claims player of the tournament at NRL Nines
Tellingly, the Cowboys, Dragons and Titans occupied the bottom three spots on the ladder last year and all finished in the top four for the tournament, arriving in Perth with a point to prove in 2020.
North Queensland leave with their second Nines title to go alongside their 2014 triumph, while a meniscus issue with Josh McGuire's knee was Green's one injury concern.
"Any time you win anything it's a proud moment for the club," Green said afterwards, with a reasonable bill of health for his squad to compliment the win.
"I'm really proud of the boys' efforts over the weekend … there's always that concern, there's a lot riding on every season so when you play your best players you run that risk (of injury), so that was a relief that we got through it."
Taumalolo revealed after the win that he had pushed Green to let him play, leading them to a $250,000 prize bonus in his first outing as Cowboys captain.
"I didn't think there was an option, I told him I was coming," Taumalolo grinned.
St George Illawarra, though, will be licking their wounds after injuries to Matt Dufty (fractured cheekbone) and Korbin Sims (broken arm), the most serious of the tournament, with Cameron McInnes (knee) also joining them in a bulging casualty ward.
Drama followed the Dragons throughout Saturday, with their thrilling quarter-final win over Penrith coming from a last-minute try to rookie Cody Ramsey that replays revealed had actually been grounded on the sideline.
Match: Dragons v Cowboys
Grand Final -
Venue: HBF Park, Perth
Ramsey – who teammates hail as either "Bjorn Borg" or "Jesus" thanks to his long locks and sprouting beard – proved himself one of the finds of the tournament with three tries on his 20th birthday.
Following the Dragons' jailbreak against Penrith, pre-tournament favourites Parramatta had warmed to their task with the try of the weekend as they took on the Red V in the semi-final.
With a Mitch Moses flick pass and a 25-metre cross-field kick from Brad Takairangi, several more sets of hands finished off the movement for Jaeman Salmon to dot down and swing the contest.
But the Dragons fought back with a late try to centre Tim Lafai to seal a tense 8-6 win and their passage to the final, while the Cowboys ended the Titans' own impressive run before going on to claim the title before 14,739 fans.