Cowboys' toughness put to the test
Inaugural Cowboys coach Grant Bell believes Paul Green is the man to deliver a Telstra Premiership to North Queensland despite starting the season with three consecutive losses.
History suggests that teams who go winless through the first three weeks of the season rarely figure in the premiership decider but a win over the Storm at 1300SMILES Stadium on Monday night will see the Cowboys with the same 1-3 record that they began the 2014 season with.
Last year they stormed home to finish the regular season in fifth position after 26 rounds and while the plan was very much to start this year in a very different fashion, they have shown many times in the past that one win in the first month need not to be terminal.
Bell was the Cowboys coach when they came into the then ARL competition in 1995 and is adamant that in Green the club finally has the right coach to instil and maintain the high standards needed to be champions.
"'Greeny' is the critical part to it. They're building a tougher regime and a tougher mix in there; tougher between the ears and I think that's what's ultimately going to give them success. Greeny is the bloke that can do that," Bell told NRL.com.
"When people describe you as a team and what it's like to play your team you want to have a consistent message coming back and to do that you've got to be accountable to your brand and Greeny is a very direct person. He's very direct in his thinking and he holds people accountable to expectation."
After a disrupted start to his tenure as Cowboys coach in late 2013, Green had a full pre-season with his squad this time around but for some puzzling reason a squad many considered one of the premiership elects in February has been struck down by a crisis of confidence.
Failing to meet both internal and external expectations has been something of a consistent theme since the Cowboys made their only NRL Grand Final in 2005. Since his arrival one of Green's primary objectives has been to eradicate the relaxed North Queensland lifestyle from the confines of the football club but he admits it is a delicate balancing act.
"People are pretty easy-going up here and that can affect you in a negative way where sometimes near enough is good enough, and that's acceptable," Green said.
"I can't really comment on previous to me being coach, I'm just taking about people in general up in North Queensland. They're pretty laid-back by nature, which is a plus, it's a great lifestyle up here but we've also got to be careful that that doesn't flow over to how we approach our preparation and playing."
Not since 2002 have the Cowboys gone four rounds without recording a win and with the Storm boasting 11 wins and five losses from their previous 17 visits to Townsville the visitors arrive without the spectre of past demons hanging over them.
Add to that difficult away assignments against the Panthers and Rabbitohs in the following fortnight and the Cowboys' season may very well hinge on what they can deliver against the Storm.