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Carefree Cowboys hail Henry's commitment

North Queensland's Lazarus-like NRL surge started when coach Neil Henry put them in a room and told them his time had come to an end.
Carefree Cowboys hail Henry's commitment
by AAP

By Jim Morton

BRISBANE, Sept 12 AAP - North Queensland's Lazarus-like NRL surge started when coach Neil Henry put them in a room and told them his time had come to an end.

Beaten by the Brisbane Broncos seven weeks ago, sporting a 6-12 record and three wins out of the top eight, the Cowboys board had tapped Henry on the shoulder with a year left on his contract.

Instead of calling it quits immediately, the 52-year-old got his troops together and told them his fifth year in charge would be his last.

But it didn't mean they'd be going through the motions for the rest of 2013.

Six straight wins later they enter the NRL finals as the form team of the competition, complementing their flamboyant attacking game with a series of second-half defensive shutouts.

Seasoned second-rower Gavin Cooper says Henry's honesty and commitment to what appeared a lost cause sparked the turnaround.

"Once everyone knew where they stood Neil got us in a room and told us what was going on," Cooper told AAP. "He wanted us to hear it from him first. He said the board wanted him to serve out the season and he was thankful for that.

"He wanted to go out on the highest note possible.

"He said it had been tough but he'd loved his time at the club.

"Everyone has bought into that and everyone is firing on the same page.

The Cowboys' results under the deposed Henry is in stark contrast to Canberra, who failed to win another match after David Furner was sacked with three rounds to play when they were ninth.

Cooper says a release of pressure combined with a desire to throw caution to the wind and play with confidence paved the way for a 30-12 boilover of high-flying Souths five days later.

"We definitely knew we could make the eight - I looked at the draw and there was a lot of teams ahead of us playing each other - so there was always that belief," the 28-year-old said.

"We started to go out there and play that carefree footy the Cowboys are known for.

"We'd gone into our shell a bit after a run of few losses.

"We're at our best offloading and running the ball (from all areas) but we'd gone to a robotic style of footy."

Their cavalier approach makes North Queensland a premiership dark horse, especially considering their miserly defence - conceding just three second-half tries in the past five games.

"The (opposition's) defence will be a lot more intense in the finals but if we're going to give any shake to this competition that's the way we have to play with the ball," Cooper said.

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