Suggestions Jason Taumalolo makes all the difference to North Queensland have been met with irritation by Paul Green ahead of his landmark game as an NRL coach.
Superstar forward Jason Taumalolo has been cleared of knee bruising and will return to start against the Warriors in Gosford on Friday.
Taumalolo trained without difficulty on Thursday and will be promoted from the extended bench, allowing Green to finally answer the question that has seemingly hung over him all week.
Green ruefully noted that Queensland representative forward Coen Hess, who missed last week’s loss to Cronulla along with Taumalolo, was also fit to start but there had been little interest in his fitness.
“To pin the loss on the fact Jase wasn’t playing … Hessy wasn’t playing and he’s a State of Origin player and no one’s really mentioning him too much,” Green said.
“Everyone’s making a lot of the fact we lost because Jason’s out but I think we weren’t that far off.
“I’m not blaming anyone but if our left edge had stopped at least one of those tries, we’d probably get a different result. Most of the blokes last week did their job.”
The game will be the 162nd in charge for Green, lifting him one match clear of Graham Murray as the longest-serving Cowboys coach.
Despite his protestations, there are few forwards who have been more influential since Green took charge in 2014 than Tongan powerhouse Taumalolo.
The former Dally M medallist has seemingly gone to another level this year, becoming the first person on record to run for 700 metres in the opening three rounds of a season.
Despite missing the loss to the Sharks, he leads the league for post-contact metres (285m).
The Warriors’ discipline has caught Green’s eye and he’s an admirer of the sacrifices the Kiwi club has made by basing themselves in Australia, although that will matter for little when the 2-2 visitors try to improve on their seventh placing.
The Warriors (1-3) are languishing in 14th following their 26-0 drubbing from Penrith last week but Green expects their stilted attack so far in 2020 to blossom at some stage, potentially through the deception of hooker Wayde Egan.
“I think Egan’s really made a difference. It’s no coincidence they’re playing a lot more through the middle,” Green said.
“He’s pretty smart out of dummy-half there so we’ll have to be honest in that area.”
STATS THAT MATTER
* North Queensland have made 15 line breaks to the Warriors’ one through the first four rounds.
* A second scoreless performance for the season last week has left the Warriors trailing the competition for points (24) and tries (four).
* The teams are split 20-20 over their 40-match history of meetings and are nearly deadlocked for average points per game – Warriors (22.8) Cowboys (22.6).