North Queensland have begun the mind games ahead of their NRL preliminary final Cronulla, daring the Sharks to target Lachlan Coote while applying the blowtorch to out-of-sorts playmaker Chad Townsend.
After his error-riddled shocker against Brisbane last week, Coote is expected to be tested under the high ball when the Cowboys meet the Sharks for a place in the grand final at Allianz Stadium on Friday night.
The Cowboys’ No.1 almost derailed his side’s premiership defence when he came up with a number of crucial mistakes, including his failure to haul in a kick which led directly to Jordan Kahu’s try on halftime.
In his pre-game press conference in Sydney on Thursday, Cowboys coach Paul Green dismissed Coote’s performance against Brisbane as an “off night” and predicted any ploy to turn the screws on him would blow up in the Sharks’ faces.
“If they want to target Lachlan Coote with kicks, he’s probably the best positional fullback in the competition,” Green said.
“If he’s not the best, he’s one of the best. He had an off night against Brisbane so I’ve got complete confidence in Cootey.
“That’s the strength of his game, so if they want to target him, that’s good, it’ll bring him into the game and he’ll respond.”
After being grilled on Coote’s state of mind, Green could hardly wait to turn the conversation to Townsend.
Like Coote, Townsend had a night to forget in his side’s last start, their finals week one win over Canberra.
The Sharks No.7 was hooked midway through the second half with coach Shane Flanagan moving Jack Bird into the halves as Cronulla ran over the top of the Raiders.
Green, himself a former Sharks halfback, said Townsend’s self-belief would have taken a beating and warned he would be tested out.
“They’ve gone out of their way to pump him up so I’m sure they’ve worked on that,” Green said.
“He’s probably a guy that we can target, you mentioned his confidence, that surely would have taken a hit after that game, being hooked, as a halfback no one wants that to happen.”
Flanagan said his charge was feeling no ill effects from his benching.
“He is an intergral part of our team, and he will be again tomorrow night,” Flanagan said.
“He has dusted himself and moved on. He was probably over-thinking his game too much and you will probably see a different Chad Townsend tomorrow night.”