5 SE­CRETS TO VIC­TORY

The Courier-Mail - - FRONT PAGE - DAR­REN LOCK­YER

NORTH Queens­land’s jour­ney over the past month has been quite amaz­ing.

If the Cow­boys can land one last knock­out punch against the Per­fect Storm to­mor­row night, it will go down in his­tory as one of rugby league’s great Cin­derella sto­ries.

But can it truly be done? Is this Storm jug­ger­naut likely to break down on the big stage?

My head says prob­a­bly not, but the Cow­boys have proved me wrong through­out the fi­nals.

In box­ing par­lance, they say styles make fights. In this case, the Cow­boys are the one team with the tac­ti­cal style to put the Storm on the can­vas.

Here is North Queens­land’s blue­print to pull off a pre­mier­ship boilover, and the five key strate­gies they must de­ploy to con­sign the Storm to back-to-back grand fi­nal de­feats.

1. BRIL­LIANT CAM CAN’T BE THE MAN COW­BOYS coach Paul Green must give his troops a sim­ple mes­sage – don’t let Cameron

Smith run. Don’t give him time and space. North Queens­land’s de­fence can’t switch off for a sec­ond on the Storm skip­per.

De­fen­sively, Smith will get in­volved with tack­les on Ja­son Tau­malolo and use his ex­pe­ri­ence to slow the ruck down when he hits the ball up.

In at­tack, they can’t af­ford to let Smith run riot like he did against NSW in Ori­gin III.

The Cow­boys need two mark­ers set and ready ev­ery time the Storm play the ball.

It’s eas­ier said than done, but if their ruck is sloppy, Smith will de­stroy them.

2. MORE TIME FOR TAU­MALOLO

There is some thought that Tau­malolo should play the full 80 min­utes. That would be fraught with dan­ger, but Green should cer­tainly look to ex­tend Tau­malolo’s game time.

The Cow­boys lose the as­cen­dancy when he is off the field. Last week, the Roost­ers scored 12 points to the Cow­boys’ 0 while he was off recharg­ing his bat­tery. There would be a temp­ta­tion to leave him out there for the whole game, but his im­pact would be di­luted if you played him for the full 80. Tau­malolo played 65 min­utes last week but I’d make him play 70 in the grand fi­nal. Green must shave five min­utes off his rest time and keep his wreck­ing ball out there a bit longer.

3. OUTSMART BILLY SLATER

One of the key bat­tles will be Michael Mor­gan’s kick­ing game, both long and short, ver­sus Billy Slater’s po­si­tional play.

Mor­gan’s kick­ing game has been ex­cep­tional but Billy will have it in his mind to catch as many balls as he can on the full. Mor­gan’s kick­ing game last week against the Roost­ers got them out of trou­ble and some of his high, swirling kicks have been re­mark­able. Smith is a crit­i­cal fig­ure. He will do his best to ha­rass Mor­gan and put him off his kick­ing game. The Roost­ers didn’t put enough pres­sure on Mor­gan last week but Smith is too smart and he will come fly­ing out of marker to muz­zle Mor­gan. The Cow­boys play­maker nearly ex­e­cuted three 40-20s last week, but Billy is so fit and fast and cov­ers ter­ri­tory bet­ter than any­one else. Billy reads play well so it will be fas­ci­nat­ing to see if Mor­gan can find the open spa­ces.

4. BENCH WAR­FARE

The Cow­boys’ in­ter­change ro­ta­tion must fire, full stop.

When Nel­son Aso­faSolomona comes on for Mel­bourne, he makes a huge im­pact.

The Cow­boys must fight fire with fire off the bench.

Peo­ple keep talk­ing about the Storm man­ag­ing Tau­malolo but the Cow­boys

need to find a way to shut down Asofa-Solomona.

The try he scored against the Bron­cos last game typ­i­fied his de­struc­tive na­ture and the Cow­boys need to keep an eye on him try­ing to barge his way over, hit­ting a Smith pass at speed close to the line.

The Storm have a huge bench and it’s im­por­tant the un­her­alded Cow­boys for­wards like Scott Bolton, Shaun Fen­som and Corey Jensen step it up. Coen Hess is the X-fac­tor. He has the size and speed to worry the Storm run­ning lines off Te Maire Martin.

5. SCORE­BOARD PRES­SURE

The Storm barely have a weak­ness but I be­lieve one is the im­pact of score­board pres­sure. They are a side that doesn’t like get­ting be­hind on the score­board be­cause they aren’t used to be­ing in that po­si­tion. It’s im­por­tant the Cow­boys start well and quickly, and get­ting to the front will be a bonus.

But it’s equally vi­tal the Cow­boys don’t even­tu­ally drop their in­ten­sity and im­plode. Mel­bourne are the mas­ters of grad­u­ally break­ing a side psy­cho­log­i­cally, but if the Cow­boys stay in the game at the hour mark, the Storm will start to think they can’t knock this mob over.

If they put the Storm in an un­com­fort­able space, a fairy­tale could hap­pen.

TRAP SET: Cow­boys Jake Granville and Ja­son Tau­malolo get to grips with Cameron Smith in last year’s qual­i­fy­ing fi­nal. Pic­ture: Getty Images

MUST DE­LIVER: Cow­boys for­ward Shaun Fen­som.

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