No rest for weary Cowboys
Cowboys coach Paul Green is set to take a typically ruthless approach over the next two weeks as North Queensland look to make it 10 wins in a row before their first bye of the season in Round 14.
There is plenty of time for recovery after a trip to Parramatta next Monday night, but for now Green has shelved any thoughts of resting his battle-weary Origin stars ahead of Saturday night’s showdown against Manly.
Green had stated in the pre-season his wish to rest star halfback Johnathan Thurston, who has played through niggling injuries toward the end of recent seasons.
Those plans looked to be a pipe dream after sitting winless at the bottom of the ladder three rounds in, but eight-straight victories has rocketed the Cowboys up the ladder.
With his side now sitting pretty in the top four – four points clear of the fifth-placed Roosters – the option for rest is likely back on the table, but Green’s focus remains on this week and getting through Wednesday night unscathed.
"We’ve spoken about it and [the Origin players are] all pretty keen to back up after the Origin," he said on Tuesday.
"I think most good players take a bit of pride in being able to back up and represent their clubs again so I expect our guys will be no different in that."
When asked whether post-Origin rest was a possibility, Green was blunt in his response.
"No, not this week. Until we get Wednesday night out of the way, given the number of players we’ve got involved it’s pretty hard to settle too much on a team at this stage.
"You’ve got to wait and see how the game pans out. If you look at last year’s Origin games, they were all pretty brutal and quite intense so we will have to see… what involvement our guys have got in it too; how many minutes they play and all that sort of stuff."
Green was no stranger to the Origin arena with the former halfback having played 10 games in Maroon between 1997 and 2001, but the game’s most talked-about event now has the 42-year-old crossing his fingers in more ways than one.
Green now has four of his best players on loan to the state sides, and says he now takes less enjoyment from the game since his coaching debut last year.
"Origin is a new experience for me, watching Origin now that I’m a coach," he said.
"I certainly don’t enjoy it as much as I used to. I still love cheering for Queensland but I have a vested interest now so I do get a little bit nervous."
Looking forward to Saturday night Green expects his players to have their guard up against a much-improved Manly side
"You can’t get over-confident about playing Manly; they’ve won two out of their last three and the game they lost was by a point against Penrith," Green said.
"They are a tough team and know how to win. They’ve been in the finals the last 10 or so years so they will come up ready to play. I think they’re certainly playing better than they were earlier in the year."
North Queensland has added Patrick Kaufusi to a seven-man bench this week, while cutting veteran forward Glenn Hall and hooker Cameron King.
Jason Taumalolo made a successful return last week after a four-game layoff and will keep his place at starting lock this week.