Ikin: Cowboys made right decision
He was part of the process that saw Neil Henry's contract as North Queensland coach terminated a year before completion last year but Fox Sports commentator Ben Ikin believes the response to Paul Green from the Cowboys players in 2014 has vindicated the board's decision.
In one of the many rugby league hats that he wears Ikin acts as a director on the Cowboys' board and was involved in the replacement of Henry as head coach towards the end of the 2013 season.
A start to the season where Green's new team had won just two of their first seven games perhaps made some fans nervous about the direction in which the club was heading but Ikin told NRL.com that their post-Origin period of six wins from eight games is proof enough ahead of the club's seventh Telstra Premiership Finals Series that they got the right man for the job.
"For me at the moment, as a director, it was a really difficult process to go through last year, parting company with Neil," Ikin said. "A learning curve to go out to the market and look for his replacement and – and I'm only talking on behalf of myself here – I can say that I'm really pleased with how Greeny's performed and how the team have embraced him as a coach.
"I've enjoyed seeing the subtle changes that Paul and [football manager] Peter Parr have been able to make to the footy operation this year.
"I had the opportunity to be associated with 'Greeny' in 2011 when he won that first [Intrust Super Cup] comp with Wynnum so my personal position was that there was a great coach in the making.
"Having seen how he coaches, what his philosophies are and what his strengths are I can see that now making its way into this Cowboys side. Particularly after Origin it's become more evident. You can see that the Cowboys are turning into Paul Green's Cowboys."
Ten years after recording their first win over the Broncos in an elimination final, the Cowboys enter Saturday night's do-or-die clash with Brisbane as clear favourites and with a growing fervour throughout Townsville.
It will be the third match-up of the two Queensland rivals in a Finals Series and Cowboys football manager Peter Parr said the atmosphere is building towards something to rival that great occasion in 2004.
"It's obviously the night that everyone remembers because it was the first time we'd beaten the Broncos and it was the first time we'd ever played a home final here and to win it ensured that everyone's remembered it," Parr said of the Cowboys' 10-0 win 10 years ago.
"It's been 10 seasons since then and we've played in six finals series so we've played in a number of finals but I guess you always remember the first one and it was just such a great night. Everybody that was there remembered it and the whole week there was incredible excitement around the whole region.
"We played the Broncos a couple of years ago and we can certainly sense that there is more hype around this game than that one two years ago. I think this could be one of our biggest nights since that 2004 game."
Having been pipped at the post for a spot in the top four, Ikin concedes that there is more expectation on the Cowboys to advance to Week Two of the finals and that they need to be wary of a Broncos team boasting plenty of experience and a nothing-to-lose attitude.
"I love the fact that it's a danger game, I love the fact that fans are going to be on the edge of their seat, I love the fact that for North Queensland fans, their team's the favourite. They're feeling hope about this year's Finals Series but I worry that from a football purist's point of view that you need to do a hell of a lot right to beat the Brisbane Broncos," said Ikin, who started at hooker for Brisbane in that finals clash in Townsville a decade ago.
"If you for one minute think that just because they fell into the finals that they're going to be easy-beats, that could come back to bite you on the backside. They cannot take the Broncos lightly because they play fast, up-tempo footy and you have to do a lot right for a long period of time to beat them.
"I've got no doubt that [the Broncos] will have their opportunities to win this game against the Cowboys, whether or not Benny Hunt against Johnathan Thurston can find that extra five per cent in the clutch moments, that could be the difference."