Renouf: Granville needs to lift his game for Cowboys to fire

North Queensland hooker Jake Granville is the lynchpin of his side and I reckon he needs a major improvement this year if the Cowboys are to get back in the top eight.

With Johnathan Thurston now retired Granville is more of a vital cog in that Cowboys machine than ever and he needs to get them humming.

I've always rated Granville highly but watching him last year I thought he lacked the spark and impact that he's had when the Cowboys won the competition in 2015.

After having a look at some of his stats I noted they were down as well compared to the best hookers in the competition, and well down on his 2015 season. Just as an example, he made on average 3.8 dummy half runs per game and 35.3 metres per game on average. Compare that to Damien Cook who had seven runs per game out of there and made 78.8m on average.

If your numbers are down as a hooker your team is going to feel the pinch.

A few seasons ago Jake Granville was one of the best hookers in the game and when you set that standard there is an expectation that it will at least continue.

That position of hooker is so important. The greats like Cameron Smith run the entire show out of there. Granville has done it before, but even more so now they need him to step up out of there this year.

Smith can get into that playmaking role and play like a half. He speeds up a game and slows it down and maybe Granville needs to look at some old videos of how Smith goes about his business.

Jake has a great running game and can read the game as well. He is a smart footballer. His passing game is there, but for some reason it went awry last season.

You could say that for the entire Cowboys side with the season they have just had.

Paul Green is the man to get the best out of Granville. He did wonders with him at Wynnum-Manly and then took him up to the Cowboys where he developed him from a bit-part player at the Broncos to an NRL regular and premiership winner.

Without Thurston they are all going to have to lift at the Cowboys. You can't underestimate what a loss he will be. It was the same when Allan Langer left the Broncos. Until those greats go you don't realise it. I remember when Alf would miss games we'd think 'we'll be right' but funny enough we always struggled.

A key factor that will help Granville in and around the ruck, where he is so quick, is the forward pack he will play behind. This year they should have a fit Jordan McLean and Matt Scott, Josh McGuire is going to add a lot because he is so mobile and has such a high work rate, then you have got guys like Jason Taumalolo and Coen Hess as well.

I think Jordan Kahu is a good signing for the Cowboys as well. Talent-wise he has it all going for him, he can play anywhere in the backline and he kicks goals.

This season is a big challenge for Green as a coach. It will test him. The Cowboys have fired under him since he arrived in 2014 and then last season was a major drop-off. Nothing seemed to go right.

I know he is a stickler for detail and he will have them primed to go, and they need to start winning early this season. They are notorious slow starters and need to get competition points early this year. If Granville fires that will go a long way towards the Cowboys returning to finals footy.