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Poll 'winner' McGuire saves his biggest sledges for teammates

Josh McGuire reckons plenty of his Cowboys teammates would have cast their votes his way after he took out the game’s "best sledger" title in the annual NRL Players' Poll.

McGuire took over the mantle that was won by former Storm centre Will Chambers in 2019 and joins a long list of winners such as Justin Hodges, Michael Ennis and Brett Finch who also attracted the most votes when the poll was run by Rugby League Week magazine.

The ultra-competitive McGuire, who attracted 30 per cent of the votes of this year's poll conducted by NRL.com in conjunction with the Sydney Morning Herald, likes to have a chat to opponents on the field but saves some of his best sprays for his fellow Cowboys.

"I can get a bit cheeky when we are winning but I haven’t really got much to sledge about at the moment," McGuire said when asked about his "win".

"It is just a part of the game and I feel more comfortable when I am talking and loud. That is the way I play footy.

"I think a lot of the votes would have come from the boys here, to be honest. I am a bigger sledger at training than in games.

"Will Chambers is still the best I have ever seen."

Cowboys rookie Tom Gilbert was not surprised the Maroons veteran had picked up the gong for best sledger.

"I have been on the receiving end of a few at training," Gilbert told NRL.com.

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"It is good. That is part of his competitive nature and sometimes it works really well when you can get under opposition skins.

"It is just another example of Moose of doing what ever he has to for this club, and it comes out in him sledging people."

The question on the biggest sledger was part of an NRL Players' Poll that has a history dating back to 1986 when it was launched by Rugby League Week.

The annual players' poll edition was the biggest-selling issue each year - until the magazine closed in 2017 - because it gave players a voice to speak up about the big issues in the game without fear of recriminations.

In 1986, on launching the poll, then RLW editor Ian Heads wrote: "In line with the chicken and egg theory the players are the most important people in rugby league.

"Without them there would be no game. Never before have the players of the game been given such a chance to express how they feel about the game they play."

Meanwhile, the Cowboys will be without star recruit Valentine Holmes for 8-10 weeks after undergoing ankle surgery while five-eighth Scott Drinkwater is looking at 6-10 weeks after an MCL rupture.

2020 players' poll results: Part 1

Captain Michael Morgan remains out of action indefinitely as he recovers from shoulder surgery.

The Cowboys have slumped to 12th after having 42 points put on them in consecutive weeks by the Roosters and Eels.

"Injuries don’t help your cause but ... I’m not going to sit here and blame injuries. That is a bit of a cop-out," McGuire said leading into Sunday’s trip to Penrith.

"We are all professionals at this club and we have all had opportunities to make a mark in our career.

"It doesn’t matter if you are the highest-paid player at the club or a young guy coming in, there is an expectation that when you take the field as a first-grader that you play to a first-grade standard.

2020 players' poll results: Part 2

"We are trying to drive that at this club but we haven’t been producing performances that are to the standard expected."

McGuire said it was vital that the Cowboys "keep our heads" when the momentum of a game swings against them.

"The Roosters scored four tries in 11 minutes after we had started well. A concentration lapse can really cost you," he said.

"We need to become a team that is connected and focused for the full 80 minutes.

"Win or lose, it is not about results for us. It is about doing those things and effort areas where we need to be better. If we get our performance right, with the calibre of players we have at this club, then I’d like to think results will fall our way as well."