Wet weather may be nothing new to North Queensland but Cowboys coach Paul Green fears the showers predicted for their NRL season opener in Townsville will advantage a vengeful Cronulla pack.
Nothing it seemed could rain on the Cowboys’ parade on Saturday night with an unchanged line-up set to launch their title defence in front of a sold-out home crowd.
Not even thunderstorms were expected to bother North Queensland who trained in horrible weather before thrashing Leeds in the recent World Club Challenge in the UK.
But Green admitted the weekend weather forecast for the tropical north had put a dampener on his preparations after training in the wet on Friday.
Green feared it would play into the hands of a Paul Gallen-led Cronulla pack hungry for revenge after North Queensland thrashed the Sharks 39-0 in last year’s finals series.
“That probably suits them more than us,” Green said of the rain.
“Their big forward pack that they have, wet weather footy suits them.
“It makes moving the ball more difficult (for the Cowboys).”
While concerned the slippery conditions would stunt his unchanged backline led by co-captain Johnathan Thurston, Green still feared Sharks fullback Ben Barba’s impact.
The revitalised 2012 Dally M Medallist Barba beat young Jack Bird to the Sharks’ fullback spot for the season opener which makes Green anxious.
“He’s obviously a dangerous player,” Green said.
“Fullback is probably his best position.
“He’ll be a handful for us wherever he bobs up on both sides on the field.
“They’ve got a new halves pairing with (Chad) Townsend and (James) Maloney there but he (Barba) is certainly one to watch.”
Green also warned fans not to expect North Queensland to find their mojo straight away in the wet despite naming the same line-up that pipped Brisbane in the NRL grand final and thumped Leeds.
North Queensland may pride itself on being a tough place to visit but Green reckoned Townsville had nothing on the unrelenting UK crowd.
“I’d like it be a little bit more intimidating when visiting teams come here,” Green said.
KEY STATS – COWBOYS V SHARKS
* The Cowboys had the competition’s best attack last season, averaging 24.5 point per game
* The majority of the Cowboys’ points last season came in the final 20 minutes of matches, scoring 256 points (69 more than the next best team)
* The Sharks averaged 19.1 points per game (8th highest), the ninth straight season they have averaged less than 20 points per game
* If all 17 named Cowboys get on the field, they will be the first team since the Eels in 1984 to have all of their grand final winning players from the previous season play in the following round one clash