Cooper says Cowboys not a spent force
VETERAN back-rower Gavin Cooper is adamant that the Cowboys are far from a spent force this season as they look to drag themselves off the bottom of the NRL ladder.
The Cowboys were title favourites in the preseason, but they've looked anything but on the field as they've slipped to a 2-6 record ahead of Friday night's clash with the in-form Panthers in Bathurst.
Attack has been North Queensland's biggest issue, scoring just 15.5 points per game despite having more tackles in the opposition 20m (36.7 per game) than any team in the competition.
Cooper conceded the Cowboys had failed to make the most of their field position in last weekend's 18-8 home loss to the Raiders, but he said that didn't mean their best days were behind them.
"We don't forget how to play footy," Cooper said.
"I know in patches this year we've struggled to gel, but when we are all on the same page we still look like that team of old.
"There's no higher pressure than you put on yourself and the reason the expectations are so high is because of the precedent we've set over the past couple of years.
"If we can control the ball and get back into the groove that is Cowboys footy then we'll be fine."
Champion halfback Johnathan Thurston has copped some of the most stinging criticism for his side's poor start, with Panthers great Greg Alexander suggesting he has played a season too long.
Thurston still ranks in the top two for try assists (10) and linebreak assists (10) this season and Cooper believed he was the best man to guide the Cowboys around the park.
"We were a bit surprised to see the big comment about Johnno earlier in the year, but I wouldn't take anyone else in the comp," Cooper said.
"I know that's just being a team mate, but seeing what he can do and the way he can influence games even without the ball in his hands, I wouldn't want anyone else in our No. 7 jersey.
"We're definitely not done, but I'm not out here to prove anyone else wrong. Everyone can have their opinions, but hopefully what we believe can come to fruition."
Co-captain Matt Scott admitted the Cowboys were struggling to execute their plays in the crucial moments, but he was confident they still had the team to turn things around.
"You've got to have confidence in the club and in the squad and what we're trying to do," Scott said.
"I believe in the team we've got, Greeny as a coach, and I know everyone shares those thoughts. We've just got to work a bit harder on different areas to try and turn it around."