Don’t try telling North Queensland’s Jake Granville there isn’t much of a difference between NRL regular season matches and finals football.
The Cowboys hooker, one of the club’s best performers this year, was given a torrid introduction to finals football against former club Brisbane on Saturday night.
Several times throughout a frenetic and tense contest a tackled Cowboys player would play the ball to no one with Granville struggling to keep up with the pace of the match.
It was a reflection of a night where the Cowboys were marginally “off” in the opinion of coach Paul Green, just enough to fall to a 16-12 defeat.
“Just the speed of the game, I probably didn’t get to the ruck quick enough a couple of times,” Granville said.
“It was pretty quick.”
Despite the disappointment of defeat, the Cowboys are keeping positive ahead of a second-chance semi-final against either South Sydney or Cronulla in Townsville next week.
Ben Hannant, the veteran prop who has experienced finals campaigns, State of Origins and Test matches, says the loss should be used as a learning experience for youngsters such as Granville.
“We probably only had two or three defensive lapses all game and they made us pay but that’s what happens in finals footy,” Hannant said.
“It was a good lesson for us that you can’t switch off, even for a second, in finals footy.
“We played so well, we were in a good arm wrestle for 80 minutes but unfortunately you can’t take a breath. A couple of times we took a breath and they capitalised on it.”
Another positive for the Cowboys to take with them into next week’s clash is the return of five-eighth Michael Morgan.
The Queensland State of Origin player returned from an ankle injury despite some doubt over his fitness and Green is confident he’ll be much improved for the game time.
“I would say he’ll be a lot better for the run,” Green said of his pivot.