The North Queensland Cowboys are on track to miss the finals for a third-straight season based on current form and Paul Green is roasting in the NRL coaching pressure cooker.
Green is contracted to the club until the end of the 2021 season, but his position is looking precarious – winning just 19 from the past 54 games since their 2017 grand final appearance.
Cowboys power brokers need to be proactive and start planning now for a post-Green future. The Warriors have already sacked their coach Stephen Kearny and the Dragons, Bulldogs and Sharks may follow suit which would spark a race to sign the best coaches.
When you look at the situation the Cowboys are in, the perfect fit for them would be Wayne Bennett and in turn, the Cowboys would be the perfect club for the master coach.
At this stage of Bennett’s career, he’s more suited to a club that is already well resourced and has a strong playing roster. Of all the clubs who could potentially be in the market for a new coach, the Cowboys are easily the most attractive option.
North Queensland has returned a profit for the past two years, they have a brand new stadium and a new performance and community centre is currently under construction, expected to be finished prior to the start of next season.
They have a playing roster that includes Jason Taumalolo, Michael Morgan, Val Holmes, Scott Drinkwater, Jordan McLean, Coen Hess and Josh McGuire. On paper, this roster should easily a top eight side.
The team’s performance in round six against the Wests Tigers, where they conceded 34 points in 34 minutes, was one of the most god-awful defensive efforts in one half of football any of us has seen in a while. The players looked lost and confused.
Bennett is a coach known for building strong defensive teams, implementing simple game plans and he gives uncomplicated direction for each player, which is exactly what the Cowboys need.Embed from Getty Images
Green’s tenure as Cowboys coach has taken a familiar path to that of Michael Maguire’s time at Souths.
Maguire’s Rabbitohs were a regular finals force and he delivered a drought-breaking premiership, but they eventually became predictable and stale with the same core group of players and began a free fall down the ladder.
That didn’t mean Maguire forgot how to coach, it just got to a point where the club needed a new voice and fresh ideas. After Maguire was moved on, Anthony Seibold took over and completely refreshed their attack to lead virtually the same roster back to the finals.
For the Cowboys, it has got to that same point where the players, individually and collectively, need a new voice and fresh ideas.
One of the main concerns for North Queensland is the development of some of their young guns such as Coen Hess, Jake Clifford, Corey Jensen and Mitch Dunn, have seemingly plateaued.
Bennett is renowned for developing young talent and turning them in to Origin and Test players. There is a plethora of young talent in North Queensland who would benefit greatly from Bennett’s mentorship.
Another concern is the form of established stars such as Jake Granville, Jordan McLean, Ben Hampton and Justin O’Neill have gone backwards in recent seasons, but another great trait of Bennett is his ability to revive ailing careers and getting those players back to performing at the peak of their ability.
A recent example is former Cowboys back-rower Ethan Lowe. He was floundering in reserve grade before joining Souths in 2019, and in just a few short months under Bennett’s guidance, he was selected to play Origin for Queensland.
Man-management is Bennett’s best attribute as a head coach. He builds strong relationships, values every player individually and shows genuine interest in not only making them better players on the field, but better men off the field. He knows when a player needs a good kick up the backside or a bit of tender, love and care.
He drives the culture within a club by setting high standards, holding players accountable and he expects discipline both on and off the field.
It would be a far cry from recent years under Green with rumours about him losing the dressing room, player unrest and alleged run-ins with captain Michael Morgan, which may have been the catalyst behind then-chairman Laurence Lancini insisting Green tone back his mannerisms and soften his hard edge style of coaching prior to the commencement of the 2020 season.
Unfortunately, it has become obvious that Green’s coaching style is no longer compatible to what the Cowboys need to be successful moving forward.
That’s not to say Green couldn’t go to another club and achieve success. His coaching philosophies would perfectly suit to a club like the Warriors, whose problems are very different to that of the Cowboys.
Bennett has stated that he is committed to seeing out his current contract at Souths, which expires at the end of next season. It could be perfect timing with Green coming off contract at the same time, if the Cowboys choose to stick by him for the remainder of his deal.
But the problem for Bennett is, all the coaching gigs might be filled by then if he chooses to wait – including the Cowboys if they sack Green early, so the time to make a move is by the end of this season.
At 70-years-old, it is unlikely that the Cowboys would get any more than two or three years out of him, but that’s more than enough time for Bennett to take their players to the next level to guide the team back to being premiership contenders.