Ecstatic faithful welcome triumphant Cowboys home
COWBOYS halfback Michael Morgan is mobbed by fans on his arrival home from Sydney yesterday. A big crowd welcomed their heroes, who belted the Parramatta Eels on Saturday night to book a berth in the preliminary final this weekend.
IT was a reception fit for rock stars, but Cowboys coach Paul Green insists his players won’t get distracted by the hype surrounding their finals fairytale.
North Queensland’s heroes were greeted at Townsville airport yesterday by hundreds of raucous fans after beating Parramatta in Sydney.
The win set up an NRL preliminary final against the Roosters on Saturday in Sydney, where the Cowboys will aim for an upset in enemy territory for the third straight week.
Green said fans were starting to believe the team was capable of something special.
“It gives the boys a huge lift to know the city and the community is behind them,” he said. “They probably didn’t have much hope for us leading into the finals.
“The way the boys have played the last couple of weeks, the belief is building within everyone else. There’s always been strong belief within the team, everyone else is getting on board now.”
Green was confident back rower Coen Hess would be fit to take on the Roosters after injuring his knee in the first half against the Eels.
Winger Antonio Winterstein suffered a heavy knock to his ribs but also played on.
“We know he got a knock in the ribs, how bad it is we’ll monitor it during the week. He’s a pretty tough character,” Green said of Winterstein.
Green was an assistant coach to Roosters mentor Trent Robinson when the Bondi club won the premiership in 2013. He joined the Cowboys as head coach in 2014 and is considered a candidate to win the Dally M coach of the year for guiding his injury-affected team to the final four.
“I will be always grateful ( to the Roosters),” Green said.
“We had a great year that year and ended up winning the comp. I played there also ( in 2001 and 2002). I’ve got a lot of respect for the club and am good mates with a lot of people down there.” Green wants his team to soak up the finals fever gripping North Queensland, but was confident they wouldn’t take their eyes off the prize.
“It’s not the grand final but it’s important the boys enjoy it and savour the moment for what it is,” he said.
“We’re not getting carried away, we enjoy coming home to a great reception but it’s business as usual.”
COWBOYS coach Paul Green summed it up when asked if becoming the first team to win the NRL title from outside the top four was motivation.
“No one’s done it before, so why not us?” he said after the team was greeted by hundreds of jubilant fans at Townsville airport after beating Parramatta in Sydney.
As the newspaper scribes, TV magazine shows and radio jocks lined up to write them off, the Cowboys have put it in the memory bank for fuel.
The Cowboys can become the Western Bulldogs of the NRL. “Why not us?”, the catchcry the Sharks used last year, has been adopted by North Queensland.
The Bulldogs came from seventh last season to become the first team to win the AFL flag from outside the top four.
North Queensland are trying to become the first in the NRL to do so since the current finals system was introduced.
The similarities with the Bulldogs are eerie. Both teams endured a huge injury toll to limp into the finals.
The Bulldogs used the AFL’s new bye week before the finals to get a few key players back and shocked the world by beating West Coast in Perth in the first week.
The 10- day break after the Round 26 loss to Brisbane was a similar godsend for the battered and bruised Cowboys.
Recharged and refreshed, they stunned the Sharks on their home turf.
Despite their brilliant display against the Eagles, the Bulldogs were given no hope against defending premiers Hawthorn the next week. They won. The critics unconvinced, they were considered easy prey for the GWS Giants in the preliminary final. They won.
Surely they couldn’t beat the Swans in the grand final? Someone forgot to tell them as they broke a 62- year premiership drought.
North Queensland were written off before Saturday’s win over Parramatta, but rivals with momentum and self- belief are tough foes to overcome.
Cowboys captains Matt Scott and Johnathan Thurston are out for the season. They can only watch on.
Now- retired Bulldogs skipper Robert Murphy was also a frustrated spectator as the Bulldogs created history at the MCG 12 months ago.
Western Bulldogs mentor Luke Beveridge is considered one of the best young coaches in the AFL. Cowboys coach Paul Green enjoys similar stature in the NRL.
The Cowboys began the season as an $ 8.50 chance to win a second premiership in three years. They blew out to 101- 1 before the start of the finals, having lost five of their past six regular season games.
Everyone can say and write what they like. Their belief remains rock solid.
EXTREMELY PROUD: North Queensland Cowboys players returned to a heroes’ welcome in Townsville after their impressive win against the Parramatta Eels. Above: Saturday’s Weekend Bulletin front page.
Debra Whiting with her daughter Chelsea Meehan, 8.
Samantha Rhodes with her daughter Sharaye, 5.
Nic Hollis with his daughter Taylah, 5.
FINALS FUN: Cowboys fullback Lachlan Coote wears a big smile after Saturday’s win over the Eels. LEFT: Jason Taumalolo and Coen Hess after the victory. Pictures: BRETT COSTELLO