Cowboys to shed ‘too nice’ tag against Broncos: Payten

Joel Gould |

The Cowboys’ Tom Dearden (left) and Reuben Cotter celebrate a big hit against Brisbane.
The Cowboys’ Tom Dearden (left) and Reuben Cotter celebrate a big hit against Brisbane.

North Queensland coach Todd Payten wants his undefeated side to stop being “too nice” and get a more ruthless edge in defence for the clash with Brisbane.

The Cowboys are alone on top of the table after three rounds, but they have conceded 62 points. 

They play a purist’s style of total rugby league with the ball in hand. On the flip side, they often allow the opposition to do the same by not being as diligent at the ruck as they could be.

“We definitely have to improve defensively with our effort on the ground and in the tackle. We are too nice,” Payten told AAP ahead of the traditional Queensland derby at Suncorp Stadium on Friday night.

“It has been a work (in progress) for a while and we have taken some small steps in the right direction, but it is something we’ve got to be really consistent with. 

“We have got plenty of work to do. Some of the tries we have conceded haven’t been pleasing.”

Payten doesn’t want his team to go over the top against the Broncos, just keep their foot on the throat.

“By aggressive, I am not meaning to try and kill blokes. We are just too honest,” he said.

Cowboys coach Todd Payten
Cowboys coach Todd Payten wants his undefeated side to take a more ruthless approach in defence. (Scott Radford-Chisholm/AAP PHOTOS)

“A lot of teams will squeeze and try and push the limits with referees. We have some young guys who have played 30 or 40 games who are still very literal and almost obey the referee as such.”

Payten’s sentiments were echoed by co-captain Reuben Cotter.

“We have got to tighten a few things up in the ruck,” Cotter said.

“It all starts with our line speed, and Robbo (hooker Reece Robson) has been great in leading that. 

“We have to really focus on the wrestle and that part of the game. If things do get quick, we will need to tighten up.”

The Cowboys have shown flair and resilience to win against Newcastle and St George Illawarra after falling behind by 12 and 14 points respectively, but that is not the way they want to continue.

“For every try you concede you have to score two to get in front, and that is hard to do because teams are so well organised,” Payten said.

“For me to be happier as a coach we have to tighten defensively for sure.

“If you get 14 points down against the top teams … there is no way back from that.”

The Cowboys have the personnel to enact Payten’s decree.

“(Prop) Jordan McLean is our best tackler and defender. He wins a lot of his involvements, and (lock) Reuben Cotter is not far behind him,” Payten said.

“Robbo is really aggressive and does a mountain of work tackling, but across the board we have to win more of our tackles.”