A confluence of events has conspired to give the North Queensland Toyota Cowboys Under-20s a perfect shot at redemption on the Gold Coast this Saturday.
National Youth Competition high flyers a fortnight ago with six wins from their opening seven games, the young Cowboys were brought crashing down to earth last start, the Parramatta Eels’ frighteningly impressive 60-12 win delivering the team its worst hiding in several years.
And while most of the NYC and National Rugby League teams cool their heels this weekend during the Representative Round, Aaron Payne’s side heads to the glitter strip for a Round 4 make-up match versus the Titans.
That game was originally slated for late-March, but was postponed due to the Cowboys experiencing flight delays which meant they couldn’t get to the match on time.
Payne said the team – who will be minus Junior Kiwis Kaleb Fuimaono and Emry Pere, plus Junior Kangaroo Enari Tuala – was jumping out of its collective skin for the chance to atone for recent mistakes.
“We’ve tried to stay positive (out of that loss),” Payne said.
“I spoke to the team (about the heavy defeat) … you don’t become a bad team overnight. So, for me, it was a one-off.
“We didn’t have the right attitude to roll our sleeves up and be prepared to do the tough stuff to get two points.
“So that’s been our focus this week – preparing well and challenging (the players) to get back to our standards and be ready for a game of footy.”
Payne said poor attitude and inconsistent efforts in defence were two glaring faults in last week’s performance, and circumstances around the team’s training schedule provided the perfect platform to prepare well to face a Titans team that is one win out of the top 8.
“Due to the representative round and there not being any other NRL or NYC games scheduled, none of our guys were training with A-Grade this week which gave us our first real preparation together as a team, which was really beneficial to us,” he said.
On the team he will roll out against the Titans, Payne said a number of young men will be playing their second ever game of NYC and would be keen to impress after getting their maiden chance against the Tigers in round six.
“I’m confident we’ve got the team to do the job and there’s a number of guys who have had limited opportunities with us through the first half of the season, because we’ve been winning and the guys have been playing well,” he said.
“So there’s some guys there who have probably deserved more opportunity and now they’re going to get it … there’s no doubt in my mind they’re definitely up for it.
“For some of the guys, it’s their second game of NYC and I know some were disappointed with their debut; so it’s a chance to atone, as it is for those established guys who played poorly against the Eels last weekend.”
Seventeen-year old forward Logan Bayliss-Brown will make his NYC debut for a Cowboys side minus clever halfback Jake Clifford (groin injury).
The 6-2 Cowboys would move from fourth to second on the NYC ladder with a win over a 4-4 Titans team featuring the return from injury of clever five-eighth and co-captain Ethan Roberts.
The game kicks off at 2.30pm on Saturday 6 May at Ned Byrne Oval, Cudgen.