Cowboys ‘aren’t up to NRL standard’

North Queensland are in dire straits, and a cluster of former NRL greats have offered a blunt warning to Todd Payten’s struggling side.

North Queensland are in dire straits, and they need to find a solution to their back-to-back thrashings sooner rather than later.

The Cowboys have started their 2021 campaign with four consecutive defeats, the most recent being a 48-10 drubbing against the Cronulla Sharks at Kogarah on Saturday afternoon.

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It was Cronulla’s biggest ever victory over North Queensland, also bettering their previous highest score against the Cowboys of 46.

North Queensland’s pitiful defensive play came under fire in the round four contest, with Todd Payten’s men letting in three tries in the seven minutes before half time.

Cronulla premiership player Michael Ennis told Fox League: “The Cowboys have been putrid in the opening half.

“There is some vulnerability on the edges for the Cowboys.

“I looked at the inexperience the Cowboys had coming into the game and thought if the Sharks can get this right, they will win and win well.”

Penrith Panthers legend Greg Alexander took aim at North Queensland’s lack of effort, blasting another “diabolic” defensive outing.

“We have seen some big scores this weekend with the Rabbitohs and the Storm, but none of them were leading 36-6 at halftime,” Alexander told Fox League on Saturday.

“Todd Payten, I don’t know where he goes from now, but a complete lack of effort.

“Whatever he is trying to do up there is not working. It is not sinking in. These players aren’t playing for their lives or their contracts. They just aren’t.

“I think it’s been a culture up there in North Queensland where they’re lazy.

“That’s exactly what Todd Payten has to change. They’re lazy, they don’t get themselves into position, and he’s filthy about it. That’s what he’s trying to say at press conferences, that he’s trying to make his team accountable.”

Melbourne Storm icon Cooper Cronk elaborated: “The edges are just paper-thin at the moment.

“Todd Payten was under pressure after last week. Well, he has a huge headache now.”

Cowboys veteran Jake Granville told reporters after the defeat: “Defensively, we’re just a bit soft at the moment, a bit disconnected.

“We’re not turning up consistently enough, and it’s really hurting us.

“Something’s got to change.”

Granville’s comments raised alarm bells for Cronk, who suggested North Queensland could be heading down a similar path as the Brisbane Broncos in 2020.

“For Jake Granville to say ‘soft’ and ‘disconnected’ — I don’t want to go off too early here, but that’s got a little bit of the Broncos at different stages last year, because they didn’t have any answers for post-game interviews,” Cronk said.

“Jake Granville has won a competition as a leading player at that club, so they need to have answers because Todd Payten is very much a revered coach up there. He was signed and sealed to bring the Cowboys a winning formula.

“To have these types of performances, four losses on the trot is not the greatest start, but they need to find answers otherwise this could get very, very bad.”

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Speaking to reporters after the loss, Cowboys coach Payten admitted it was tough to watch his side crumble to another heavy defeat.

“At the moment we are a team that aren’t willing to build a game, we are chasing the game,” Payten said.

“We all need to get on the same page and pay the price physically. I watch the good teams go at it and they just work and work and work, and when there is a stoppage, they are all gassed and then when the ball is back in play, they go again.

“At the moment, we are making some individual choices around our effort, which aren’t up to NRL standard.

“I was disappointed that we were not able to hang in there for longer.”

North Queensland will next face the Wests Tigers at Leichhardt Oval on Sunday, April 11.

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