Cowboys' gain after the pain
North Queensland's failure to handle the high expectations of 2013 and the arrival of new coach Paul Green is the formula to take the Cowboys to a maiden premiership, according to veteran back-rower Glenn Hall.
Although 16 unanswered points by Canberra in the opening 27 minutes of the season was not the expected start to 2014 for the Auckland Nines champions, their response and the influence of Johnathan Thurston saw them register a first-up win.
Like 12 months ago and with a largely unchanged squad, the Cowboys are currently on the fifth line of premiership betting behind last year's top four teams but Hall believes the mistakes made in a disappointing 2013 campaign will not be repeated.
"It was hard last year, the weight of expectation, I think everyone looked at it and read too much into it and believed that it was just going to happen for us," Hall told NRL.com. "In a way it was good for this year that we know we've just got to take it session by session and all that other stuff will take care of itself. This year we'll be a lot stronger for the way we finished last year for those reasons.
"'Greeny' has come in and he's instilled that in most of the guys; 'Don't worry about down the track, it's session by session.'
"That day-in, day out mentality that we're starting to get is really good. If we can not worry about what's written and what's said about us and we can just do our job week-in, week-out, day-in and day-out, hopefully we'll be holding a premiership trophy up at the end of the year."
For the second year in a row Hall signed a one-year contract to extend his NRL career into a 12th season and will soon weigh up whether he puts his hand up for a fifth season at the Cowboys and opens discussions with the club.
But first, he'll evaluate how his body is holding up after 194 games in the NRL and Super League including a premiership with Manly-Warringah in 2008.
"My last couple of years, that's how I've looked at it and why I've signed one-year deals, listening to the body a bit more," says Hall, who will turn 33 on March 21. "If the body's holding up into the first couple of weeks then I'd be more than happy to go around again.
"With the change in coaching staff there have been different ways of doing things and different views and it's been hard but it's been really good.
"The guys have come in and changed everything so it's about flexibility as well as being strong, so if your shoulders are caught in certain positions, so it's all changed in that respect, which is really good.
"Getting older, I've just got to find myself doing those little things, managing injury prevention a bit more, stretching hamstrings, more ice baths and things like that. If it's going to prolong my career and keep me in the game that I've loved doing since I was a kid, I'll be doing it."
Hall and wife Kylie Butler have two children, a 3-year-old daughter and 11-month-old son and the durable forward admits that ensuring their safe futures is more terrifying than any challenge posed on the football field.
While he admits to giving his parents the odd occasion to bring him back into line growing up, Hall is hoping to instil the same set of values that his parents gave he and his siblings.
"My wife's said my son's never going to go out if he's anything like myself or my brothers or her brothers," he said.
"It scares the crap out of me, massively. I want to do the same thing that my parents did. I don't want to hide them from it, I want to give them as much knowledge as I can and hopefully I've done a good enough job that they make the right decisions.
"They're going to do their own thing anyway so hopefully I can arm them with as much knowledge and common sense to make the right decision and to learn for themselves."