Cowboys confident finals curse has lifted
Their exit from the past three Finals Series have been shrouded in controversy but North Queensland back-rower Gavin Cooper insists the Cowboys' 2015 destiny is very much in their own hands.
Finishing in the top four for the first time since 2007, the Cowboys have earned the right to a second chance should they slip up in Week One of the finals against the Broncos and the opportunity to erase the horrors of recent years.
In 2012 the Cowboys' fortunes turned on the infamous 'Hand of Foran' incident against Manly, in 2013 a seven-tackle try to the Sharks went undetected as Cronulla held on for a two-point win and then last year North Queensland fought back from a 30-0 deficit to be denied a match-winner in the dying seconds against the Roosters due to a forward pass.
Unlike the previous two seasons the call last year was the correct one and Cooper said that any talk of a 'Cowboys curse' was put to bed at the very beginning of the season.
"It's something that we spoke about at the start of the year. That it's all in our hands, win, lose or draw," Cooper said.
"If we go out there and play to the best of our ability and play a great game you never know, you might get beaten on the day.
"We don't want the refs to come into it. There's been a lot of controversy around the Cowboys for a little while now and let's hope it doesn't happen again.
"From a media or fan point of view they were looking for a story or looking for someone to blame but that's in the past now and we don't want the refs to come into it at all."
A fourth consecutive finals win over the Broncos would open the door to the Cowboys hosting a Preliminary Final in Townsville in Week Three of the finals and just one more win from a second grand final appearance.
In the past five weeks the Cowboys have suffered losses to the Sharks, Rabbitohs and Storm and Cooper believes they may have been guilty of having finals on their mind a little prematurely.
"I'm glad the finals are here," said Cooper, who deputised for Johnathan Thurston and Matt Scott at Monday's captains' call.
"People have been talking about it for a long while and maybe subconsciously a few of the boys have been thinking about that and we might have got a little bit ahead of ourselves thinking about the finals too early.
"I'm glad they're here now and if you can't put your best effort in now then you don't deserve to be there.
"It definitely is a new competition and a great opportunity against the Broncs.
"The best thing would have been to get a home semi this week but second best is playing the Broncs in Brissy.
"It's always a massive occasion and a few of our boys haven't had the experience of playing the Broncs in a big derby yet.
"Being down there in Round 1 or Round 2 is massive but being there in a final is going to be enormous, so I'm really looking forward to it."
Although he doesn't believe there is an issue as such with the way the team is starting games, Cooper conceded that in the pressure-cooker of a finals clash they can ill afford to give up a 12-point lead as they did against the Titans at the weekend.
"From our point of view it's not so much the start but lapses in some of our systems that we let each other down in," said the 30-year-old Murgon junior.
"It takes a try or something like that for us to turn on and in the finals you can't wait for that try.
"On the weekend against the Titans we were really good in our first few sets with and without the ball and then we gave away two quick penalties and they were attacking our line. We didn't regroup after those couple of penalties and that's how quickly it can turn.
"In finals you can't do that, we showed that last year giving the Roosters a 30-point lead. Yes we got back to 30-all but the game was well and truly lost by that stage."