With the pre-season trial games fast approaching, things couldn’t be going any better inside the North Queensland Toyota Cowboys camp.

That’s the word according to new assistant coach and defence specialist Peter Ryan.

“In terms of tackle technique and contact everyone’s improved, from the smaller guys who may not have the capacity to hit really hard, right through to the big guys, who really do hit hard,” Ryan said.

“Seriously, from day one of pre-season to day one of January the improvement was huge.”

Ryan has spent the last few months settling in at the club, drilling his defensive strategies and strong work ethic into players at training sessions.

When he arrived at the Cowboys at the end of last year, coaching staff were hoping the former Broncos and ACT Brumbies hard man would be the answer to the team’s disappointing defence record from last season.

While it appears they’re getting the desired result, Ryan is adamant the progress achieved so far can’t be solely contributed to his arrival at the club.

“It’s been good in that I can’t fault the players’ attitude towards anything that I’ve put forward, so it’s been very exciting for me and I think it’s going to be a very exciting year for all of them as well,” he said.

“Defence is about attitude and their attitude so far has been fantastic.”

That approach from players is exactly what’s needed if the team wants to come out guns blazing this season after conceding 123 tries in 2010.

Looking for a fresh start with a new-look team, the boys are glad to have one of the game’s leading experts on their side, says fullback Matt Bowen.

“He’s (Ryan) been a good defender when he played and all the boys are taking things on board from him and obviously trying to get better defensively, that’s the whole goal for this year,” Bowen said.

“If we can improve on that then we’ll go a long way towards winning more games.”

This is an outcome Ryan is also hoping for.

“I don’t want to pre-empt a notion that we’re going to be the best defensive team in the competition, although that would be a goal for me,” he said.

“I’d hate to hazard a guess in terms of what we’re going to do in the season, but at the moment I’m very, very happy.”