NRL great Matty Johns has called out the North Queensland Cowboys for a lack of attitude in their poor start to the 2023 season. The Cowboys reached the preliminary final last year and lost to the Eels in a close match.
However, their start to the new season hasn't gone to plan, having lost to the Warriors and Broncos. The Cowboys' only win came when they nearly blew a lead to the Raiders in the opening round.
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And Johns has labelled the team's downfall as a lack of 'attitude' after failing to hold onto leads in 2023. Speaking on SEN Radio, Johns said they have lost focus on their defence and need to readjust their priorities.
“The Cowboys have got some real problems as far as attitude is concerned,” Johns said. "I would say 75 per cent of their energy is exerted on attack, they’ve got little focus on defence.
"All the most important areas to win a football game, they’re considerably worse than last year. They trust their attacking brands too much. I see this sometimes with South Sydney, they go into games, and they’ve got a swagger about them that says, ‘If you score 22 points, we’re sweet, we’ll score 26’.
“That is how the Cowboys are playing, frivolous passing, no thought for ball retention. They just believe they can win the game on the back of attacking class. They could easily be 0-3.”
The Cowboys led against the Broncos 8-0, before losing 28-16 and being thoroughly outplayed. Against the Warriors, Todd Payten's men didn't score after the 14th minute as New Zealand piled on four unanswered tries.
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Payten was less than impressed with his team's performance on the weekend and slammed the players' discipline in the loss to the Warriors. "Our ball control is not good enough, our discipline is not good enough and we're marching our opposition out of their own end," Payten said in his post-match interview.
"We're not giving ourselves an opportunity to win the game and the credit has to go to the Warriors - they played with a lot of effort, spirit and they're a well-drilled team playing confident in each other's ability."
The Warriors 26-12 win over the Cowboys marked an end to a 13-match losing streak in Australia for New Zealand and also marked a milestone 200th NRL game for skipper Tohu Harris. Despite the Cowboys' struggles, both Parramatta and the Wests Tigers sit bottom of the ladder winless.
Tim Sheens' men face a desperate Melbourne Storm on Friday night, while the Eels - who have had the hardest start to the season with fixtures - face Penrith on Thursday in a grand final rematch.
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