Green proves he's the master of resurrection

When Paul Green's Wynnum Manly team lost their first six games of the 2011 Intrust Super Cup season the coach didn't go looking for answers where they didn't exist; he set his sights on creating history.

A phone call to the Queensland Rugby League head office told him what he wanted to hear, that 12 months earlier the Northern Pride had lost four of their first five games before going on a winning run that didn't finish until they had secured the 2010 premiership.

"I remember getting off the phone thinking he was kidding himself. Here he was having lost his first six games and he was thinking about what they had to do to win the comp," one long-time QRL official recalled.

While others scoffed at the mere thought that Wynnum could be a premiership contender Green encouraged his players to keep the belief, that if they could just find a way to win enough games to sneak into the finals that they could go all the way.

Sound familiar?

In a relatively short timeframe as a head coach Paul Green has proven himself to be the master of resurrection, of timing his team's runs better than a Bart Cummings stayer during Melbourne's Spring Carnival.

As everyone around him moves to pull the plug on his team's seasons Green steps forward with the defibrillator paddles to revive their flagging fortunes and set a course that defies conventional wisdom.

‌In 2015 the Cowboys were just seconds from suffering a fourth consecutive loss – a start to a season that no team had ever endured and gone on to be crowned premiers – before Johnathan Thurston kicked two field goals to get their historic season moving in a forward direction.

This year all manner of obstacles have been placed in their path – not the least of which was the well-publicised season-ending injuries to co-captains Thurston and Matt Scott – yet still Green insisted that if they stayed in the fight for long enough that their luck would turn.

They lost five of their last six games to round out the regular season, scraped into the top eight with a 54 per cent winning record and then proceeded to go on a giant-killing run that has them on the precipice of NRL immortality.

The last team to claim the last finals spot on offer before going on to be victorious on grand final day was Brisbane in 1993's five-team finals series but those who have played under Green know how he'll view the opportunity afforded his team 24 years later.

Luke Dalziel-Don was the one who scored the try with four minutes to go that earned Wynnum's first win of 2011 in Round 7 but said once the 'Gulls qualified for the finals they held no fears of what lay ahead of them.

Having claimed the sixth and last finals spot with a record of 10 wins and 11 losses, not even knocking over minor premiers Tweed Heads in week one phased Wynnum despite the fact their opponents had lost just one game all season and dished out a 48-8 flogging two months earlier.

"He really emphasised once we got through that period to put it behind us and then challenged us, telling us that everyone was saying we couldn't do it and I'm sure he'd be doing the same with the Cowboys," Dalziel-Don told NRL.com.

"He did a really good job of rallying us. Everyone had some belief and buy-in.

"You can't lose your first six games and then come back and win a comp, it just doesn't happen.

"That's what everyone was saying but he said to us that we just had to sneak in and if we sneak in it's a new ball game and that's how it played out.

"After we beat Tweed in the first week of the finals I honestly couldn't see us getting beat. It was a bit of a masterstroke of him to drum that into us the last six weeks."

 


Current Cowboys hooker Jake Granville was Wynnum's fullback in 2011 and said that while Green's hat stays on his head more at training these days, his ability to communicate and inspire his players remains his greatest strength.

"When he first moved up here the boys reckon the hat used to get thrown a bit so he's probably controlled that a little bit better," said Granville, who joined Green at the Cowboys in 2015.

"You're clear in your mind about what you've got to do to make the team perform better. And everybody's different too.

"You've got to treat everyone a bit different from each other, you can't treat everyone the same way in delivering that message."

The Cowboys' unlikely run to the grand final from eighth position is feeling eerily familiar to Dalziel-Don who has no doubt that if there is a coach who can create a unique slice of history that it is Paul Green.

"It's a testament to 'Greeny' that whenever there has been a bit of adversity he seems to handle it really well," Dalziel-Don said.

"I questioned where they were at when they lost 'Thumper' (Scott) and 'JT' (Thurston) but I thought if there's anyone that can bring this group together it would be Greeny.

"He's very good at bringing the best out of individuals and breaking things down so that they know exactly his expectation of them and how to extract that and make sure they perform at their best."