Rugby league supremo Phil Gould has put the blowtorch on the Cowboys and coach Paul Green after a dismal start to the NRL season that has seen them win just two of six games.
Wests Tigers embarrassed North Queensland in the first half of their clash on Saturday night, racing to a 34-0 lead inside the opening 40 minutes. The Cowboys came back in the second half but it was too little, too late and although the Tigers took their foot off the gas, they still eased to a 36-20 victory.
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Green’s men have only beaten the bottom two sides, the Bulldogs and Titans. Worryingly, none of the teams they’ve lost to — the Broncos, Sharks, Warriors and Tigers — are even inside the top eight.
Speaking on 100% Footy, Channel 9 commentator and former NSW coach Gould said he holds grave fears for the Cowboys, who in the next four weeks face the teams occupying the top four spots on the ladder (Knights, Eels, Roosters and Panthers).
“I think the Cowboys are under more pressure than anyone,” Gould said. “I said it in game one of the year when they lost to Brisbane.
“There was something about them I really didn’t like.
“I thought that they looked really stale and old and just didn’t look fresh enough for me.
“They haven’t played a top eight side yet. They’ve still got the hard half of the competition to play.”
Gould scorched the Cowboys’ effort against the Tigers, saying it puts the spotlight firmly on Green.
“What happened on the weekend, down 34-0 after 36 minutes, you can’t tolerate that,” Gould said.
“There’s something drastically wrong to be beaten by halftime by that score.
“It was disgraceful and for me he (Green) is the one under the most pressure more than anyone.
“I think what’s happening up there has gone unnoticed. It’s up in North Queensland, we don’t look at it all that much, but they haven’t played the top sides yet.
“It’s gonna get very ugly for them before the end of the season.”
Appearing on Fox Sports’ NRL 360 on Monday night, Green rejected suggestions he’d been inquiring about a job at Cronulla and expressed his disappointment at the number of NRL coaches under the pump to keep their job during the coronavirus pandemic.
The embattled North Queensland mentor also insists he isn’t feeling the heat despite the Cowboys finishing in the bottom four for the past two years and slumping to a third straight loss on the weekend.
“I would have thought that if there was ever going to be a year where we didn’t see as many sackings or pressure on head coaches, it was going to be this year — but clearly that hasn’t been the case,” Green said.
“But in terms of my position, no, I’m not feeling pressure that I’m going to lose my job.”
While he may have been banking on NRL’s version of a “Jobkeeper” program, the reality is Green, along with the Sharks’ John Morris, Brisbane’s Anthony Seibold, Canterbury’s Dean Pay and St George Illawarra’s Paul McGregor are all feeling the heat.
But Green said he was “not sure” why he’d been linked to a return to Cronulla, where he won the Rothmans Medal as the game’s best and fairest player in 1995. Asked if he or his manager had spoken with the Sharks, Green said: “No, neither myself or my agent has contacted anyone as far as I’m aware. There’s no need to.”
While heartened to retain the support of the playing group, Green said it was “really important that everyone takes a bit of ownership” for the Cowboys’ woes, much of which the coach attributed to the constant chopping and changing of the spine.
“I’m not for a second making any excuses, particularly for that first-half performance,” he said of his side’s effort against the Tigers.
“But one of the challenges, if you’re trying to build teamwork, is just consistency with your team and that’s been a real challenge for us, particularly the past few seasons.
“We just haven’t been able to keep those combinations on the park for any stretch.
“Last year we had 12 different combinations in one, six, seven and nine and the most amount of games that any of those combinations played together was four.”
With Darren Walton, AAP