North Queensland coach Todd Payten has accused his players of lacking mental resilience and revealed that the club had employed a psychologist to work with them during the pre-season after a late collapse against Manly on Saturday night.
The Cowboys trailed just 24-18 with 10 minutes remaining but conceded four more tries to lose 46-18 and leave a frustrated Payten questioning their resolve.
“The last 10 minutes were absolutely unacceptable,” Payten said. “I thought we gave up in the last few minutes when things were going the other way.
“That has happened too many times throughout the season. We have a real lack of mental resilience.”
Manly also stormed to an 18-6 half-time lead after scoring two tries in the last three minutes following a kick into touch by North Queensland five-eighth Scott Drinkwater.
Match Highlights: Cowboys v Sea Eagles
Fullback Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow scored a spectacular 95-metre try in just the third minute and centre Murray Taulagi appeared set to repeat the feat early in the second half after taking an intercept near his own tryline but was run down by Jason Saab.
“We didn’t manage to score the try and things went downhill from there,” Payten said.
“In a lot of games we have wrestled momentum back in our direction and we have gifted it back with fundamental error or not kicking a penalty out on the full, ruck infringements and stuff like that.
“It has hurt us and we haven’t got the resilience in the side to handle those things going against us.”
Hammer vs Saab in the first three minutes!
Payten promised that things would change next year and warned the North Queensland players that they faced a tough pre-season.
“There will be a bigger focus around our mental skills along with our physical capabilities,” he said.
“The last pre-season we probably put too much focus on our game model and what we want to do in attack and defence. That is not the way we are going to attack it this year.
“You have got to make them uncomfortable every day until they get to a point where we are comfortable being uncomfortable.
"We have employed a guy to come in who is a mental skills coach. He will be on the ground during the pre-season.
"He is good at his job and it is just making sure we put the heat on them from a pressure point of view, physically and mentally, throughout the pre-season, more so than we did last year with our mental application.”