A curt Paul Green has brushed aside speculation he is under pressure as North Queensland coach, saying he is determined to break their NRL finals drought.
After the Cowboys dropped their second straight game last round, Green received more bad news with captain Michael Morgan now expected to be sidelined for another six weeks recovering from shoulder surgery.
Morgan – who was initially expected back next week – is on a Cowboys injury list that now boasts ex-NFL hopeful Valentine Holmes (ankle) and stand-in skipper Jordan McLean (calf).
Both Cronulla premiership winner Holmes and ex-Test prop McLean are expected to be sidelined for another fortnight.
And in another blow, forward Tom Gilbert accepted a three week ban for dangerous contact on Tuesday.
It was the last thing Green needed as reports emerged this week that he was the next to feel the heat after their disappointing last round 37-26 loss to the Warriors.
But asked if he was feeling any pressure, Green bluntly told media on Tuesday: “No.”
Despite their troubles, North Queensland (2-3 record) are still in the eight ahead of their round six clash with Wests Tigers on Saturday.
And Green was still confident they would finish the shortened season there after missing the finals the last two seasons.
“We still aim for the top eight. We want to play finals,” he said.
“It’s been a couple of years since we played it. I know there is plenty of motivation in the club (to play finals).”
Green has named speedster Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow – who made his NRL debut on the wing last round – as Holmes’ fullback replacement against the Tigers.
And he slotted in former Canterbury junior Connelly Lemuelu on the wing in what will be his NRL debut.
Tongan wrecking ball Jason Taumalolo will take over the captaincy.
Green said he still liked what he saw from the Cowboys this year despite their recent stumble.
“We put some faith in some young guys. It’s a changing of the guard,” he said.
“But where we have struggled to score points in the past, that isn’t the case this year.
“We just need to work a bit harder on the other side of the footy (defence) and we will put ourselves in a lot more games.”