With their finals hopes still flickering despite a 30-18 loss to the Rabbitohs, Paul Green would love nothing more than to have his skipper Michael Morgan on the field and calling the shots when things get tight.
The Cowboys mentor conceded that inexperience in the halves and some poor last-tackle options proved costly in the dying stages of Saturday night's game but he is adamant Morgan's absence isn't playing on the his players' minds.
“Yeah, we'd like him in the team, but he wasn't so we need to get on with it and do your job," Green said.
"A lot of us did our job there tonight, but some of us didn’t.
“I think Morgs will still probably miss next week at this stage. He had his appointment [with a specialist] last week so we’ll see how he goes but I’d say he’ll probably be missing the Sharks game.”
Morgan hasn't played since being concussed in Origin III and in his absence young halfback Jake Clifford led the team to an upset win over the Roosters in round 17 and had a mixed bag against the Rabbitohs.
The 21-year-old produced a 40-20 kick in the 28th minute and had plenty of good moments but with the game on the line in the final 10 minutes it was the match-hardened Bunnies playmakers who came through.
“There’s a little bit of game management, understanding what's going on in the game and what we actually need and following some instructions too," Green said.
“Whilst we can't play as expansive as we’d like to with those guys [Clifford and Asiata] in the halves, we still played enough to get ourselves into a winning position.
“We had the game there [at 18-12]. We bombed a try but even with the penalty with about eight or so minutes to go we probably should’ve closed the game out there... very disappointing.”
“We just failed to sustain any sort of pressure by the way we ended our sets and that was a classic example.
"We got a tap, set start, coming out of our end with eight to go. We should have been smart enough to find, if not a restart, a one-pointer at the end of it."
The bombed try Green refers to came in the 62nd minute with the Cowboys ahead 18-12 and within reach of a win which would have drawn them level on 16 competition points with the eighth-placed Knights.
Rookie winger Murray Taulagi only had to catch the ball and sprint away to score but he put the pass down and the Rabbitohs made the most of the reprieve.
“I think that was probably one of our only errors in the second half," Green said.
"Apart from that, I thought Murray was good, I thought he was strong, he made some good reads, he had some good carries.”
The Cowboys now head to Cronulla on Thursday to tackle a desperate Sharks outfit in the grip of a five-game losing streak.
If they are to keep their finals hopes alive the Cowboys will have to do it without Morgan.