COWBOYS coach Paul Green has ordered his team to unleash the shackles against Melbourne Storm to avoid being “choked to death” by the masters of slowing down the ruck.
The Storm have built a reputation as the best wrestlers in the competition with skipper Cameron Smith taking advantage of the extra space to lay on four tries in last week’s 40-6 thrashing of Manly.
The Cowboys know simple football, which they’ve adopted since Johnathan Thurston was ruled out for the year through injury, won’t be enough to break down the league’s stingiest defence.
Friday night’s match at 1300SMILES Stadium is a virtual must win for fifth-placed North Queensland if they want to keep their top four hopes alive.
A win could see them enter the top four, but a loss could place them just two points ahead of ninth spot.
They are also looking to avoid a fifth straight loss against the Storm, their last victory coming in the 2015 preliminary final when they went on to win their maiden premiership.
“Things like ball control and discipline, they’re the masters of that so you have to be good there, but you also have to play footy,” Green said.
“If you play normal one-out footy or don’t play with one eye open, they’ll just choke you to death.
“You need to be prepared to play some footy.”
The Cowboys showed they’re working toward unveiling a more expansive game by laying on two tries with well executed set plays against the Roosters last week.
They squandered a 16-6 halftime lead to go down 22-16, but it has resulted in a more intense build up after Green said some players may have approached the clash against the second-placed Roosters like “just another game”.
“You’d like to think when you’re playing the competition leaders the boys would be up for it,” Green said.
“You need to have an awareness of their threats but they’re smart enough players to be able to adjust on the run. You put too much time into one particular part they do they’ll just change it.”
Middle forward Shaun Fensom (rib cartilage) trained strongly on Thursday and will return to the line-up in place of youngster Braden Uele after he missed the Roosters clash.
Tonight’s match will be the first chance for Cowboys fans to watch 2018 recruit Jordan McLean in action after the Storm prop returned from five weeks out with a hamstring injury against Manly.
“Our last four or five games to finish the season, every game is a big one,” Cowboys prop Scott Bolton said.
“There’ll be a lot of tough games coming up and none of them are just like another one, we have to take them as if they are minor semi finals.
“We’ll be looking to do that this week and Melbourne is one of the bigger games we’ve got.”
Rd 15, 2017: Storm 23 bt Cowboys 22 at AAMI Park
Qualifying final: Storm 16 bt Cowboys 10 at AAMI Park
Rd 21, 2016: Storm 16 bt Cowboys 8 at 1300SMILES Stadium
Rd 10, 2016: Storm 15 bt Cowboys 14 at Suncorp Stadium