North Queensland must find a way to address their sluggish starts as they search for their maiden NRL premiership.
In what must be a unsettling omen for Cowboys fans, the Townsville side have been woeful starters over the final month-and-a-half of the regular season, with their opposition scoring first in each of their past six outings.
Gold Coast, Melbourne, Warriors, South Sydney, Cronulla and Canberra all got the jump on Paul Green’s side in a worrying reminder of the manner in which they were knocked from the competition last year.
The Cowboys were bundled out in the second week of the semis by the Sydney Roosters after mounting a massive comeback only to fall agonisingly short, 31-30.
They allowed the Roosters to skip away 30-nil before scoring five unanswered second-half tries but were pipped by a 76th-minute James Maloney field goal.
Back-rower Gavin Cooper admits the side’s inconsistency is something they have addressed.
And while they’ve managed several great escapes during this year’s regular season, he says it’s something they won’t be able to get away with in the weeks ahead.
This year is shaping as the side’s best chance to win a premiership in their 21-year history after finishing in the top four for just the second time.
Cooper says the opportunity is one they can’t afford to squander and they will strive for a complete performance in Saturday’s qualifying final against Brisbane.
“When we’re on, we’re a team that’s pretty hard to handle. We’ve just got to be on for 80 minutes,” he said.
“Those games throughout the year where you let slip for 20, 30 minutes or only play good for a half but still come away with a win, that doesn’t happen in finals.
“The Roosters blew us off the park (in last year’s semi-final) 30-nil and we played good for the rest of the game but we weren’t able to get the job done.”