PLAYERS PLUG LEAKS
THE Cowboys have transformed from being defensively flawed to boasting the stingiest brick wall in the competition as they look to make a mockery of the theory they can’t win without Johnathan Thurston.
A scheduled group review after their 26- 6 home loss to Parramatta in round nine, which prop Scott Bolton la- belled afterwards as “embarrassing”, has helped the Cowboys steady the ship in their top- four charge.
Having conceded over 20 points per game in winning six of their first 11 matches, the Cowboys have leaked less than 13 a match in the six matches since, winning five.
They have given up fewer points than any other team over that period and it is forcing critics to rethink their belief they aren’t premiership contenders without their champion playmaker.
The Cowboys generally hold a group review every two months and their sit- down after the Eels just happened to follow their worst performance of the year.
They identified areas to improve and the playing group have backed up their intent to fix them with actions.
Their middle third defence and control of the ruck were big issues early in the season and they have tightened up considerably.
Halfback Michael Morgan said the willingness of the players to buy in has been a big factor in the turnaround.
“We had a group review after the first few games and spoke about where we were at, and what we wanted to improve on,” Morgan said.
“We came up with a few short- term goals, had another look after the last eight weeks and the improvement was massive.
“Defensively we’ve improved, but we were also able to score more points than the first nine rounds as well.
“It was good we were able to set some goals after a start to the year we weren’t overly happy with.”
Morgan admitted the issues had to be rectified if they wanted to give themselves a bona fide shot at a second premiership in three years.
“If we wanted to be serious in this competition and consider ourselves a genuine chance, we had to improve,” Morgan said.
“It was good that everyone really bought into what we spoke about that day.”
The Cowboys only sit outside the top four on for and against, but face one of the tougher runs home of the topfour contenders.
After they host the Warriors tomorrow night, North Queensland face four of the top five teams on the ladder in the Roosters ( round 21) Melbourne ( round 22), Cronulla ( round 24) and Brisbane ( round 26). The last three of those games are in Townsville and it will give them a solid indication of their progress before finals.
“It’ll be a tough period physically, along with the travelling, but it’ll give us a chance to see where we’re at going into the back end of the year,” Morgan said.