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Central and North Burnett Times - - SPORT -

RUGBY LEAGUE: “Em­brace this feel­ing, boys.”

That was the crux of Cow­boys co-cap­tain Johnathan Thurston’s plea to his team­mates as they hud­dled to­gether on ANZ Sta­dium af­ter Sun­day’s grand fi­nal loss.

The Storm used the hurt of their loss to Cronulla in last year’s de­cider to blow a wounded Cow­boys off the park.

And the Cow­boys have vowed to use it as mo­ti­va­tion to en­sure there’s no let down when Thurston, Matt Scott and Storm re­cruit Jor­dan McLean bol­ster next year’s squad.

“In the hud­dle out on the field that’s what we spoke most about,” Cow­boys back rower Coen Hess said.

“Johnno said em­brace this feel­ing boys, and use it as fuel.

“We’ll learn from the mis­takes but we’ve learned a lot this year, and if things get tough next year, we can re­flect upon these times.”

Twelve Cow­boys play­ers that ran out on Sun­day fea­tured in the grand fi­nal win over Bris­bane in 2015.

Only Kane Lin­nett (Roost­ers in 2010) and Ben Hamp­ton (Storm in 2016) have tasted grand fi­nal de­feat be­fore, with Thurston also part of the Cow­boys team that lost to Wests Tigers in 2005.

Cow­boys coach Paul Green de­scribed his play­ers’ re­solve in play­ing on with in­juries as “noth­ing short of re­mark­able”.

About ten play­ers who took the field on Sun­day were car­ry­ing nig­gles. As each player re­fused to sit, their team­mates fol­lowed suit.

“We’ve had a huge num­ber of debu­tants (seven) and huge num­ber of play­ers (32) we’ve used in a sea­son,” Hess said.

“Tonight wasn’t just an ef­fort of the 17 guys who took the field, we have a whole play­ing group of 35 or more and we’ve had to look to them to help us out.

“That’s been the pic­ture of our whole sea­son, guys have played in­jured and out of po­si­tion but that’s just football.

“I don’t think we can use that as an ex­cuse. The guys had a job to do, and we fell a bit short.”

Cow­boys cen­tre Justin O’Neill played in Mel­bourne’s 2012 pre­mier­ship but it didn’t dull the hurt.

“It’s tough ei­ther way, we just lost a grand fi­nal,” he said.

BURN­ING DE­SIRE: Gavin Cooper and Jonathan Thurston. PHOTO: MARK METCALFE / GETTY IM­AGES

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