Cowboys coach Paul Green knows first-hand how Sydney Roosters players deal with controversy, insisting that this week’s Mitchell Pearce saga will have no effect on preparation for their clash on Saturday in Townsville.
As an assistant under head coach Trent Robinson last year, Green helped guide the Roosters to their first premiership since 2002 and says the group is too close to let the attention surrounding Pearce interrupt their preparation.
Although NSW Police dropped any charges against Pearce after he failed to quit a licensed premises last Saturday night, the Roosters in consultation with the NRL Integrity Unit have fined Pearce $20,000 (to be donated to charity) and suspended him from playing this weekend against the Cowboys. Boyd Cordner, who accompanied Pearce throughout the evening, was also fined $5000, $2500 of which is suspended.
It has been an unwanted distraction ahead of a clash between two teams finding some of their better form but Green doesn't believe it will lessen the challenge facing his side.
"They are a pretty tight-knit group down there, I can speak from experience," Green said. "They had a few different issues they had to deal with as a playing group last year and I'm sure they will be professional enough to not let it distract them and make sure they prepare well.
"It certainly had [a galvanising] effect on them last year. As a group they got together and more importantly played well on the paddock and I expect it to be the same this week."
Coming off a fine last-start win over Brisbane, North Queensland's preparation for the defending premiers struck somewhat of a blow with the injury curse that kept Townsville flyer Kyle Feldt out of September action last year striking down another young Cowboys winger, Curtis Rona.
Rona has made headlines for his seamless switch into top grade which included three tries, but like Feldt, has gone down with an innocuous ankle injury just three games into his NRL career.
With Green labelling the injury as "not too bad" there are no concerns Rona will miss an extended period of football but he does look to have missed a chance of permanently securing the No. 5 jersey, with the return of Antonio Winterstein against the Roosters on Saturday.
"We’re just getting to the bottom of it with scans. It's not a long term injury by any means," Green said of Rona's injury. "It happened in the second half when he made a tackle in the far corner and he came out of the tackle hobbling."
Winterstein, who suffered a hamstring strain against Wests Tigers in Round 6, will return a week early after a quicker-than-expected recovery.
"He’s worked hard [with rehabilitation] and he’s just got to get through the week's training and he will play," said Green.
This Saturday marks Green’s first game up against his old club, saying the inside knowledge will help to make scouting and formulation of the game-plan easier come Saturday.
"They’ve made a few subtle changes but the bones of what they do hasn’t changed too much, so I have probably got a bit of a head start on our game prep," he said. "It's one thing to know what they’re doing but it’s another thing to stop it.
"“There’s no [personal] significance coming up against the old side, just that it’s a test for us [as a team]. It will give us a good indication of where we’re at, so I’m looking forward to the contest from that point of view. I’m confident in the game we’re playing.
“There are quite a few good match-ups right across the paddock – up front, I’m sure that clash will be great, coming off the back of the game Matt Scott played last week. And in the halves, 'JT' (Cowboys co-captain Johnathan Thurston) versus Mitchell Pearce and Maloney."