Cowboys backing Green for glory again
NORTH Queensland coach Paul Green has the support of Cowboys powerbrokers after chairman Laurence Lancini declared "something dramatic" would have to happen for the NRL premiership-winner to be sacked.
Green is embarking on a pivotal season in his coaching career following North Queensland's poor performances over the past two years.
After losing the 2017 grand final, the Cowboys have finished 13th and 14th and struggled to fire without retired champion Johnathan Thurston.
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Green, 47, is the most successful coach in North Queensland history, winning 84 of 157 games (53.5 per cent), including the 2015 NRL grand final, since he took charge in 2014.
Green is contracted to the Cowboys until the end of the 2021 season, however there have been murmurs he is under pressure on the back of recent results after enjoying a golden era of success.
Powerful chairman Lancini will step down from North Queensland's top job next month, but told The Sunday Mail the club was firmly behind Green.
"We really support Greeny - he is a great coach," Lancini said. "You can't blame just Greeny for the last couple of years.
"No doubt you're going to say some of the effect has got to be the coach.
"Like most coaches who have a couple of bad years, they'll have a good look at themselves.
"Greeny is a smart coach and smart guy. He's had a good look at himself and his coaching staff and has made changes.
"We really support him. I'm not saying that because I'm talking to you. As far as I'm concerned, Greeny is our coach and it will stay that way unless something dramatic happens."
Following the sacking of Neil Henry in 2013, the Cowboys finished fifth in Green's first season in charge.
They recorded top four finishes the next two years, winning the club's first premiership in 2015, before reaching the grand final from eighth spot in 2017.
The wheels fell off in 2018, Thurston's final season in the NRL, and the Cowboys failed to bounce back last year, winning nine of 24 games.
The Cowboys have not gone three straight seasons without playing in the finals since 2008-10 and a team boasting international stars Jason Taumalolo, Michael Morgan and Valentine Holmes will be expected to contend in 2020.
But Lancini said Green would not be judged solely on making the finals.
"No, we don't put ultimatums on people," he said when asked if Green had to make the top eight.
"To say that to him, God knows what could happen. We could have 10 of our senior players get injured. You can't blame him for that.
"We don't deal in ultimatums. We certainly haven't put any of those on him.
"He knows better than anyone the team needs to perform and he will do everything in his power and his coaching staff will do the same.
"He's taken the club to two grand finals. How many other coaches have done that in five years?"
The Cowboys have been criticised for how the club prepared for and adapted to life without Thurston, a four-time Dally M Medal winner and 323-game NRL legend.
Thurston was well below his best in his final season in 2018 and there has been pressure on new captain Morgan to step into the void of a league champion.
"We could say we were (prepared), but when you lose a player of that calibre it's got to have an effect - you'd be silly to say anything different," Lancini said.
"I think Michael Morgan has been great but it's a big step up for him. He's going to be far better off this year after getting a year under his belt as captain.
"JT had a big influence on the club, not just as a player but also mentoring the young fellas. No one led by example like Johnno did."
Lancini's near 20-year tenure at the club will come to an end in the lead-up to North Queensland's Round 1 clash against the Broncos on March 13.
The property kingpin has decided to scale back his commitments as he approaches 60 and said the club was well-placed to bounce back in 2020.
"It has been a couple of tough years," he said.
"Between injuries and everything else, we've had a lot against us. I don't want to make excuses but we were seriously affected last year with the floods (in February).
"We had seven seasons (2011-17) where we made the finals every year. We've had some really good years.
"We've got a good roster, they're training well and have had a good off-season.
"We've missed the last two finals and we're not happy about that but we're starting the season very optimistic. We certainly hope we have a much better year than the last couple."