North Queensland coach Paul Green has urged his players not to put too much pressure on themselves ahead of Saturday night’s must win NRL semi-final against Cronulla at Townsville.
Green admitted the players were well aware of what victory would mean for the Townsville community who are expected to pack 1300Smiles Stadium.
But Green urged players like pivot Michael Morgan to stop beating themselves up over their performance in last week’s 16-12 finals loss to Brisbane if they were to keep their maiden title hopes alive.
After a quiet return from a three-week ankle injury last weekend, Morgan claimed he had to provide more assistance to playmaker Johnathan Thurston.
“No one needs to put too much pressure on themselves – Johnno (Thurston) included,” Green said.
“Morgs has blamed himself and that is a load of rubbish.
“It was his first game back. He could have probably contributed a bit more but he’ll be fine.
“If we play close to our best the result will take care of itself.”
North Queensland have won all of their five finals played in Townsville.
Cronulla – the only team to have beaten Cowboys twice this year – have never won a final outside Sydney.
“The players realise how much this means to the community,” Green said.
“I know they enjoy playing here. We want to put on a show for the fans and the community.
“It is do or die time now. If we lose the season is over.
“If that is not enough motivation then I am not sure what will.”
Green said he hoped his side learned their lesson from their tight qualifying-final loss to the Broncos.
“In the big moments in the game last week we didn’t finish it off,” he said.
“That’s an important part of our game we need to get right.
“The Broncos deserved to win but we probably missed a couple of opportunities.
“And in big games you can’t do that. They realise they probably missed an opportunity last week – this is a chance to get it right.”
Green has cut Ray Thompson from his extended bench, opting for Rory Kostjasyn.
The winner faces the Storm in Melbourne in next week’s grand final qualifier.