After a tumultuous week, the North Queensland Toyota Cowboys under-20s will look for a steadying performance as they strive to return to the winners’ circle against the young Dragons on Saturday.
Dealt their first defeat of the season at the hands of the Tigers in Townsville last-start, the young Cowboys were poor in two key areas of the match: conceding yardage penalties and ruck defence.
The team was also disrupted in the lead-up to the match with several players stood down for breaching team rules.
This allowed six of Aaron Payne’s squad to make their NYC debuts, with two of those young men – Murray Taulagi and Solomon Vasuvulagi – retaining their spots this weekend.
“Time will tell whether those players will learn their lesson from being stood down,” Payne said.
“They’re back playing this weekend and judging by the positivity and energy at training this weekend, they’re all keen to make amends, which is pleasing.
“It definitely hurt them, not being able to help the team, so if they respond in the correct manner, I’ll be really pleased.”
Payne said the two areas where the team fell short against the Tigers had been addressed during the week, with the penalty situation a particular focus.
“We got Wyatt Raymond – a Townsville-based ref – in to run a session, in which he explained interpretations and terminology, which was a tremendous help to the boys,” Payne said.
“We need to be much more disciplined in terms of piggybacking opposition teams out of their territory.”
Payne said the swathe of debutants last weekend all performed well, and would be better for the experience.
On the Dragons – placed second on the ladder with five wins from six starts – Payne nominated fullback Steven Marsters and centres Reuben Garrick and Zac Lomax as genuine attacking threats, with the Cowboys forwards needing to control the middle, which would blunt the elusive trio’s effectiveness.
The match at WIN Stadium kicks off at 5.15pm – live updates on Twitter @nthqldcowboys.