Cowboys find grass is Green-er
Unfairly or not, season 2014 has a predominant slash-and-burn theme for coaches in the NRL. As the flames leap more rapidly from club to club than they ever have before, it is refreshing to know that someone somewhere is being recognised for the job they do.
Good things were all Cowboys players could say about their mentor Paul Green as they set their sights on a top four finish. Co-captain Johnathan Thurston and veteran Glenn Hall noted the inclusive culture bought to the club along with the kind of poise not always seen from a rookie in the top job.
And the main beneficiaries are the next generation players – the Jason Taumalolos, Sam Hoares and Matthew Wrights of the world who previously didn't stamp any kind of presence in the locker room.
"I've noticed a lot of the younger boys, they're not afraid to speak up and that's what you need," Thurston told NRL.com of the current situation behind the scenes.
When asked if the younger members of the group felt more at-ease and involved among their peers compared with last year, he said: "Yeah, I think so. They are a lot more comfortable.
"I think he's very clear on the points that he is giving the boys."
Hall added: "It doesn't matter what era or age group the boys are, 'Greeny' is very good at finding a way to talk to the boys and including them in training, whether they are in the full-time squad or they aren't. He's very black and white; there are no mixed messages in what Greeny says. I really like how he approaches training and approaches the boys when he needs to talk to us."
For the rookie coach, a foot in the door came in 2009 as an assistant to Ivan Henjak at the Brisbane Broncos, but after higher coaching aspirations saw him depart the club on amicable terms at the end of 2009, Green cut his teeth at state level.
He would spend two seasons in the Intrust Super Cup running the show for the Wynnum Manly Seagulls, delivering the Brisbane bay-side suburb two straight premierships in 2011 and 2012.
Unfortunately for Green, 2009 was a sliding doors moment where he missed out on possibly fast-tracking his coaching career at one of the NRL's most historic clubs, because while he was off winning a premiership in his first year at Wynnum, the Broncos had promoted then-assistant Anthony Griffin to the head coaching role.
But while it would seem a missed opportunity in the moment, that extra time spent at Kougari Oval would turn out to be invaluable in dealing with the early turbulence experienced in his first year up north after starting with a 2-5 win/loss record and not making much headway by Round 15 (6-8).
"He showed that, to me, he looked pretty calm through the whole time and that he knew it was going to take a bit of time and it was about the process is what he kept relaying to us. That kind of rubbed off on us as well and at the moment we're starting to reap the benefits of it," Hall told NRL.com as the Cowboys revel in a record-breaking thumping of the Wests Tigers and a fourth consecutive win.
For a man of 5'6", Green is often the largest in the room. He played with a point to prove and he coaches the same, never failing to get a point across.
It is Communication 101 that there are three ways to send a message, and as a leader only one of those works. Players simply will not respond to submissive or aggressive instruction and Thurston says his coach always finds the right balance.
"He's assertive but not aggressive and that's what you need and that's what the boys like as well," said the Cowboys co-captain. "You don't need too many ideas in your heads, you just need to keep it short, sharp and direct and get your point across quickly and that's what all our coaching staff do.
"We've set up a really strong leadership group here that direct a lot of the stuff through the playing group so if the players are uncomfortable talking to the coaches about anything, they talk to any of the boys who are in the leadership group.
"Having that solid leadership group puts more accountability on the boys and that's good for everyone."
It is safe to say one of the hardest parts of Green's tenure is already over. He has taken it all in his stride, weathering the storm of injuries and expectation, and managed road demons that had plagued the group for too long.
If the on and off-field success he is having in his first year progresses into 2015, there is no reason for a fire any time soon in North Queensland.