North Queensland coach Todd Payten has confirmed that Josh McGuire had been offered an early release and with 10 other members of the team humbled 48-10 by Cronulla on Saturday night coming off contract he is unlikely to be the only Cowboys player leaving the club.
A clearly frustrated Payten questioned the commitment and discipline of his players after they conceded more than 40 points for the second consecutive week and agreed with hooker Jake Granville’s post-match assessment that the Cowboys were “soft”.
“It’s hard to disagree,” Payten said. “We are making some poor decisions with the ball which is putting our defence under pressure and then we are not defending any errors.
“We are low on confidence but we are looking to get things done the easy way by chasing points rather than building games and trying to build pressure and get rewards late in each half.
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“We want our players to be honest and it is good to know that they have a clear understanding of where we are at.”
Interviewed by Fox Sports at full-time, Granville said: “Defensively we’re not resilient enough. We’re soft at the moment and a bit disconnected. Something’s got to change”.
With former Warriors prop Lachlan Burr their only off-season signing, Payten has effectively inherited the same roster that finished 14th in 2020 after taking over from Paul Green this year.
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Payten said the club had mutually agreed with McGuire to let the former Queensland and Australian lock leave before his contract expires at the end of next season.
“We have had a conversation with his management and if he is able to secure an opportunity for next year we aren’t going to stand in his way,” he said.
Asked if the release had been instigated by McGuire or the club, Payten said: “Both”.
McGuire has been linked with a move to St George Illawarra and while Payten said the release was for next season he didn’t rule out him leaving sooner, saying: “Things can change quickly”.
Meanwhile, Payten suggested the Cowboys players needed to adopt a more professional attitude if they were going to turn things around.
“It starts at training and it starts with what we are doing away from training, in terms of consistency, sleep, diet and all of that sort of stuff, being professional away from our facility and giving ourselves the best opportunity to train well,” he said.
“That doesn’t mean you are going to play well but it gives you an opportunity to play well. We were pretty honest downstairs then.
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“We all need to get on the same page and we all need to pay the price physically. I watch the good teams go at it and they just work and work and work, and when there is a stoppage they are all gassed. Then when the ball is back in play they go again.
“We had some weeks in the pre-season that got my confidence higher than what it is at the moment but it was pretty clear to see in the first games how we handled adversity and it is a true indication of where we are at.”