No excuses for slow NRL start: Cowboys

Another controversial NRL finals exit would cause a riot in Townsville, North Queensland backrower Gavin Cooper joked.


But the Maroons hopeful was deadly serious when he claimed there would be no excuses if the Cowboys did not start their 20th anniversary season with a bang.

A third straight finals campaign ended in 2014 with North Queensland again on the wrong end of an officials’ call.

However, it did not stop Cooper finishing an injury-hit season on a high with a call-up to the extended Kangaroos’ Four Nations squad.

And the honours look set to continue in 2015.

Cooper, 29, is on track to fill a Queensland backrow vacancy created by Ben Te’o (rugby) after a debut appearance in Wayne Bennett’s Emerging Maroons squad last weekend.

But the late bloomer’s sole focus was helping North Queensland hit the ground running in 2015.

He said the stage was set to give long-suffering Cowboys fans something to smile about early after co-captains Johnathan Thurston and Matt Scott (both shoulder) skipped the Four Nations and with coach Paul Green well established.

“We always seem to start a season slowly,” Cooper told AAP.

“Last year we might have had some excuses with the World Cup being on and didn’t have anyone there for pre-season training or having a new coach learning his new systems.

“But we have no excuses this year.

“JT (Thurston) and Matt Scott stayed home from the Four Nations and everyone knows how Greeny wants the Cowboys to play.

“We always finish well but there are no excuses to start slowly this year.”

The “no excuses” approach has also been applied to yet another finals campaign that ended after an official’s call that had the Cowboys fans up in arms.

Fighting back from 30-0 down, Thurston looked to have crossed for the matchwinner in their NRL semi-final against Sydney Roosters only to be disallowed for a touch-and-go knock on in the lead-up.

“We have shrugged it off but there would be a big riot if it happened again,” Cooper laughed.

“It is something we won’t drag into next year.

“We have to try and take the refs out of the game.”

Cooper is also not trying to dwell on his Emerging Maroons call-up despite Te’o’s departure and Queensland backrower Chris McQueen under pressure.

“It’s a little pat on the back knowing you are in the back of their minds,” he said.

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