Hurt Cowboys hit back
TENSION is building in North Queensland with Cowboys players hitting back at their own coach, rejecting Paul Green's claim the premiership hype has gone to their heads.
A frustrated Green raised concerns over his players' attitude and urged them to "stop reading headlines” in the wake of North Queensland's 30-14 loss to Melbourne in the grand-final replay on Thursday night.
Some of the code's most respected figures, including Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy and Kangaroos mentor Mal Meninga, declared in the pre- season that the Cowboys were the team to beat this year.
But leading Cowboys stars denied yesterday that the pre-season predictions had sent their egos spinning out of control, as they digested the pain of consecutive losses.
Star pivot Michael Morgan revealed Green lashed the squad with some post-match home truths.
While Morgan agreed Cowboys players needed to work harder, he dismissed claims they had bought into the hype.
"I don't think so, no, I don't think we do (read the headlines),” a visibly disappointed Morgan said.
"I can only speak for myself and it doesn't really bother me what others are saying.
"We've had that expectation in the past on our club, so it hasn't changed.
"That's not what is making us play bad. What's making us play bad is we aren't clicking into what we need to do with the preparation and video we are doing.
"We aren't taking it into the game and that is hurting us.
"Greeny is just frustrated. We had a couple of rev-ups from him (after the Storm loss). I can only imagine what he said in the press conference, because what he said to us (in the sheds) was much worse.”
Grand finalists last season, the Cowboys will finish the weekend outside the top eight with a 1-2 record and are under pressure to respond against Penrith on Thursday night in Townsville.
Green has rarely looked as disappointed at a post-match press conference. He blasted his troops for looking for an "easy ride”.
Asked what he wanted them to do to respond to the two straight losses, Green deadpanned: "Stop reading some headlines for starters and just some more consistent effort from the little areas of the game, the little tough areas of the game.”
However, Origin back-rower Coen Hess scuppered suggestions the Cowboys had become complacent.
"Not really,” he said.
"Paul just wants what is best for us. He knows what we are capable of and certainly it's frustrating.
"He is at the helm, he understands what we are capable of and it doesn't just upset him, it upsets all of us.
"We have some pretty good halves (Morgan and Johnathan Thurston) and as a forward pack if we aren't laying a good platform for them, it makes their job a lot more difficult.
"It's a 17-man game and we are all accountable for the team's performance. It comes down on everyone really.”