Cowboys coach eyes better discipline in Warriors clash
The downfall of North Queensland's round two derby loss to Brisbane was their ball control, and coach Todd Payten has challenged his players to make amends in the face of a revamped Warriors squad when the sides meet in Townsville.
Payten's Cowboys coughed the ball up eight times in their round-one win over Canberra and that grew to 13 errors against the Broncos in round two.
As a result, the Cowboys' line was under constant pressure and allowed Brisbane's strike weapons to run rampant in a three-tries-to-one second-half blitz.
North Queensland had the fifth most errors in the NRL in 2022, averaging just over 10 errors per game, and Payten wants to right the ship early this year.
"We're going to have to defend well, tackle well and move well," Payten said of their defensive assignments against the Warriors.
"If we look at our first two performances it was our ball control that put us under pressure and a lack of discipline by marching our opposition out of our own end too easily.
"We need to get those three parts right, they all sort of affect each other. So we need to improve."
Three of the last four matches between Payten's Cowboys and his former Warriors side have been decided by four points or less.
The only outlier is their most recent fixture in Townsville, where the hosts dominated 48-4.
But the third-year Cowboys coach has been impressed by good friend Andrew Webster's turnaround in New Zealand, and knows Webster's new-look Warriors are no slouches.
"He's a terrific fella and a terrific coach," Payten said of his counterpart.
"Just by being at home you can tell that they're all much happier and they'll improve by virtue of having 50 per cent of the games in New Zealand.
"Couple that with a new coaching staff, a better roster and just that connection, a better happiness amongst the group, they're going to improve."