Topics:  cowboys, neil henry, nrl, rugby league

Coach Neil Henry aims to improve Cowboys' defence

North Queensland Cowboys coach Neil Henry.
North Queensland Cowboys coach Neil Henry. Ian Hitchcock / Getty Images

NO ONE one has ever questioned the Cowboys' ability to score points.

Stopping the opposition from doing the same has been the team's Achilles heal in coach Neil Henry's time at the club.

So it was no surprise that on the first day of pre-season training yesterday, Henry said the main emphasis over summer would be on improving the team's defence.

"We need to improve defensively. We finished fifth in the competition defensively (last season), and that's where we finished (on the ladder)," he said.

"It's a good indication of where you're going.

"Our attacking ability really doesn't come under question. We scored the most points in the competition so it's just about being more consistent with our defensive efforts."

Apart from a disastrous 2010 when the team won just five games - the least in the competition - the Cowboys have been arguably the most consistent attacking team in the competition since Henry switched from Canberra at the start of the 2009 season.

Despite finishing 12th in Henry's first year at the helm, the team was ranked No.3 in points scored.

And in 2011 when it finished seventh with 14 wins, again it ranked second on the points for table.

Yesterday he suggested it was the outside backs who needed to lift their defensive output to take the team from finalists to premiership contender.

"We need to work on areas like contesting our kicks, defusing bombs ... we conceded a few tries from bombs so our outside backs will be working hard there," he said.

"As far as our attack goes, we don't need to change much there."

Two areas where the coach said the team was already ahead of last season was its depth, and players' fitness levels.

He pointed to the arrival of players like English hooker Scott Moore and Storm utility Rory Kostjaysn, as well as the return of former Wests Tigers halfback Robert Lui as testament to the depth in the club's all-important spine.

"The depth has improved across the board, it's probably the best it's been in my time here. That's what you need in this competition," Henry said.

After a week of fitness testing and blowing out the cobwebs, the Cowboys will train six days a week in the lead-up to the first trial match against the Broncos in Mt Isa in February, although Kangaroos representatives Johnathan Thurston, Matt Scott and James Tamou have another two weeks off.

Henry said with most players having been running and doing weights in advance of pre-season training starting, he was confident fitness levels were "ahead of where we were last year".



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