North Queensland fullback Lachlan Coote has revealed how a one-on-one meeting with coach Paul Green erased the self-doubt that threatened his NRL career.
As the Cowboys prepare for Sunday’s all-Queensland grand final against Brisbane, Coote looked back over a remarkable 12 months that began with him questioning his move to Townsville.
This time last year the former Penrith custodian could only watch as local junior Michael Morgan picked up two awards at the club’s gala night after a breakout season in his beloved No. 1 jumper.
“There was always a bit of self-doubt after the way Morgo played last year in the number one spot,” Coote told AAP.
“You question yourself if you’re good enough to get back into the team and whether you’re better than him.”
But, having fully recovered from an ACL injury that wiped out his first season in Townsville, a sit-down with Green in the pre-season alleviated any fears Coote had surrounding his immediate future in the team.
“He’s a smart coach, Greeny,” Coote said.
“He sat me down early and let me know that I was going back to Queensland Cup at the start of the year, which I was happy with.
“He just said he wanted me to get some minutes in my legs before I was coming back to play first grade.”
That promise gave the 25-year-old the confidence to bide his time before his eventual return, which came in a round 3 loss to this week’s grand finalists, Brisbane.
While the Cowboys were comprehensively beaten 44-22, Coote showed enough promise at fullback to keep his spot the following week in what was his first appearance at home since shifting from the Panthers at the end of 2013.
The last-gasp victory over Melbourne, which included a team-high six tackle breaks from Coote, ended the Cowboys’ three-game season-opening run and kick started an 11-game winning streak.
And the former City representative hasn’t missed a game since, tallying a career-high 26 games ahead of Sunday’s decider.
“When I was sitting on the sidelines watching Morgo carve up, never did I think I’d be here playing in a grand final – at least not this early,” he said.
“But I did come here for one reason, and that was to be part of a team that I knew had the ability to play in a grand final. Being here now, it’s surreal.”
Coote’s left-footed kicking game has proven to be an excellent foil for the right-foot of Thurston, particularly when teams target the Cowboys skipper early in the match.
Coote said he was happy to wear the shots to relieve the pressure off the main man.
“It leaves JT to have his head clear and do his job properly,” he said.