Cowboys co-captain Johnathan Thurston recognised that change was necessary to avoid a repeat of North Queensland's disappointing 2013 campaign. Col Whelan/NRL Photos Credit: NRL Photos Copyright: NRL Photos
North Queensland captain Johnathan Thurston has opened up on the sacking of former coach Neil Henry, insisting the Cowboys needed to change their ways in order to become a genuine premiership force.
Thurston has had just two weeks working under new Cowboys coach Paul Green but recognised well before his arrival that the Cowboys couldn't keep preparing in the same manner as they had in the past and expect different results.
Along with Manly and Melbourne, the most remotely-located team in the Telstra Premiership is one of only three teams to have qualified for the semi-finals in each of the past three seasons but Green has already brought a harder edge to their training.
The rookie NRL coach seems intent on bringing the Townsville side into line with the enhanced professionalism of the most successful NRL clubs of the modern era and Thurston believes it is exactly what they need to be a success.
"Yeah, it needed to [change]. I've been here since 2005 and our training that we've done has pretty much been the same throughout that whole time," Thurston told NRL.com.
"Now that 'Greeny' has come in it's completely different to what we've been used to in the past and it's certainly freshened up the joint.
"Just how our sessions are run, totally different to what we've been used to in the past. Everything is very thorough and he's particular about everything that he does and that's rubbing off onto the squad. Every session we do we know what we're doing and we know why we're doing it and he gets players' input about things as well."
While Thurston may have missed the majority of the pre-season due to his starring role in the Kangaroos' World Cup triumph, Glenn Hall has been there from day one and says that the players all have a clear understanding of what Green expects of them.
"With what we do on the field everyone has a specific role and if you're not there you can tell by what play we're doing who's not doing their job or who is missing out," Hall explained. "It's made everyone accountable and everyone has bought into it which is really good from the start of pre-season.
"We've probably been a bit slow; Greeny likes everything up-tempo and upbeat. The first couple of weeks we were probably a bit slow and we got kicked in the arse and were doing a few more penalties – he's got a couple of little doozies – but just being a bit more efficient and a bit quicker between breaks and changeovers.
"It's made everyone pick up their tempo and everyone's really bought into it."
The culture of the Cowboys has been built on tough forwards and individual attacking brilliance but the primary focus of Green thus far has been to build a defensive structure that holds up under pressure.
Statistically, the defensive end of the field was not a horror story for the Cowboys in 2013 but Green concedes that fans may notice a change in the manner in which their side goes about their work.
"As long as we're winning I'd hope they'd be happy," Green said of the reaction of fans to a different style of Cowboys play. "It's not all going to be about defence but it's certainly high on the list of priorities.
"In terms of what's important for us, particularly early, I think it's important to get off to a good start and I know if you want to do that you tend to have to have your defence in order.
"We need to be more consistent so across the board we need to be performing at a high level individually and we need to be able to do that consistently.
"Defensively, we need to get more consistency in our defence and our defensive systems and if we can get that down pat as a baseline for a good foundation for our game then I think we've got plenty of individual attacking brilliance within the team.
"We've got some really good attacking weapons but we just need to have a really good foundation in our game to fall back on."
Next Monday: Thurston discusses his future in rep footy