Forget about pats on the back for making it so far, a group of North Queensland Cowboys stars have revealed how the devastation of watching the Melbourne Storm celebrate their Telstra Premiership win is driving their quest for redemption.
With injured co-captains Johnathan Thurston and Matt Scott missing most of the year and many of the squad playing busted, the Cowboys were praised for just reaching the NRL decider, before losing to the Storm 34-6.
“Everyone was patting us on the back for the good effort we showed at the back end of the season, but you could tell looking at the boys faces that there was still that fire in our bellies,” Cowboys winger Antonio Winterstein told NRL.com.
“We can’t wait for round one to start and everyone is eager to finish off some unfinished business.”
Fullback Lachlan Coote is off contract at the end of 2018 and keen to stay, but when asked what was driving him this year he spoke of a team goal.
“Seeing the Melbourne Storm celebrating after the grand final is going to drive me again to be there again in October and lift that trophy again,” the 2015 premiership-winning Cowboy said.
“It is a good effort from the boys [to reach the decider], with what we went through with all the injuries … but watching another team celebrate at the end of the year was devastating.”
The loss of Thurston led to Michael Morgan stepping into the limelight while veteran Scott Bolton lifted another notch in Scott’s absence. Impressive rookie forward Corey Jensen also got an extended opportunity off the bench.
The injuries to other key players throughout the year had a snowballing effect across the squad and the likes of Shane Wright, Enari Tuala, Kyle Laybutt and Gideon Gela-Mosby make their NRL debuts.
“This year we had a few major injuries that set us back a little bit but we were able to fight through that and a few young boys got some quality experience NRL experience,” back-rower Ethan Lowe said.
“That is going to be a big help for us. When they need to step up we know they will be able to do the job and do it very well.”
Former Australian cricket captain Steve Waugh had the motto of “never satisfied” despite his team’s frequent success.
Lowe, Winterstein and Coote tasted premiership glory in 2015 but are not satisfied as they power their way through the pre-season.
“Now you have to start again in November and work for another 10 or 11 months to get back there,” Lowe said.
“That is the thing that is driving me at the moment.
For Coote, the key is not relying on Scott and Thurston to make up the difference.
“It is exciting with Matt Scott and JT returning. They are going to be raring to go and into everyone, and making sure everyone is switched on and doing the right things,” Coote said.
“But I think we learned a lot last year with all the younger fellas, myself and Morgo stepping up into that leadership role.
“This year we have got to stick with that and not sit back once the co-captains get back. We need to step up, make our mark and do what we did last year.”