Cowboys look to Asiata for fast start
It was a change out of necessity but back-rower John Asiata's elevation to the starting 13 in place of Gavin Cooper may just be the ticket to a faster start for the Cowboys this week.
Poor starts have plagued North Queensland all year and star five-eighth Michael Morgan has told of a fix so simple that it makes the inability to open games the way they finish them even more frustrating.
All year coach Paul Green has talked about how hard momentum is to seize once it is with the opposition, and Morgan agrees that his side hands early momentum to opponents all too easily.
"We seem to be giving the other team the first chance at momentum too often and it's frustrating because we know that we don't need to change much to make that part of the game better," he told NRL.com.
"I think if we just get the better of the first couple of sets in the game it can stand us in good stead for the whole first 20 minutes.
"The boys who are starting know their roles but it's just a matter of going a bit harder, but the good thing is that we're coming towards the end of the year where we really have to be motivated for games.
"We need to have a mindset that we really have to get stuck in and not let them make metres and put our bodies on the line from the start."
And that's where Asiata comes in.
There have been few Cowboys in recent times more willing to put it all on the line than the ball-playing back-rower, who has almost matched star Jason Taumalolo's minutes and charged hard for an average of 108 metres over the past six games – 37 more metres than his pre-Round 17 average of 71 – and missed just three tackles over that stretch.
Prior to last week's game against the Rabbitohs where the Cowboys clicked into gear earlier than usual, the side was caught in a mould of monotony that they had cast themselves.
But with one of the Cowboys' most consistently energetic player over the past month entering the fray from the first whistle, Asiata is expected to help win early dominance by bring the punch of an interchange player into the start of the contest.
Asiata will provide a different element the side's high-traffic area to the left of the ruck and will help out a forward pack that Ben Hannant says needs to regroup and rekindle the fire before time runs out.
"It's been very disappointing and for us as the pack we need to come together as one and I saw a couple of steps in the right direction last weekend. Unfortunately little things let us down," Hannant said.
"We've showed we can play some fantastic footy and defend really well but for us, stay switched on and stick to the plan for 80 minutes.
"We're running out of weeks to get it right, so we're looking forward to going over to the Tasman and getting it right this week."