Young Cowboys are learning in NRL: Green

North Queensland’s short-term pain will be worth the long-term gain.

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So says Cowboys coach Paul Green, who took the high road after his NRL side almost pulled off a miracle comeback in a 28-22 defeat to St George Illawarra on Saturday night.

Down 28-4 and without Johnathan Thurston, Jake Granville, Lachlan Coote and Matt Scott in Wollongong, the Cowboys got to within six but fell agonisingly short of a famous win.

Despite the brave effort, the competition heavyweights are likely to finish the round sitting outside the top eight for the first time in almost two years.

Even so, Green remains confident of his team’s premiership trajectory heading into next week’s home clash against perennial battlers Newcastle.

“Very confident, we’ll be right. We’re just having a rough period at the moment. Every season teams go through it. You don’t know when it’s going to be, ours is now,” Green said.

“We’re not winning games so we need to keep trying to jag a few wins and stay in touch with the leaders in the competition, which I’m confident we’ll do.

“And it’ll hold us in good stead at the back end of the year. You’d rather be going through this now than coming into the semi-finals, which happened to us last year.”

The Cowboys were forced to play 102-kilogram forward John Asiata in the halves on Saturday, while little-used Blake Leary started at hooker for just the second time in his five-year career.

Green also conceded winger Kyle Feldt could be playing better after he added two more errors to his competition-high 15 turnovers of the season.

After watching his team almost crawl out of a 24-point hole against the Dragons, Green insists the pain of some early season defeats could provide dividends in the long run.

Coote (calf) is a chance of returning against the Knights, and then Thurston (calf), Granville (leg) and Antonio Winterstein (arm) could be back the following week.

“It’s not just out top-line guys that are injured at the moment. It’s a few of our second-string guys there, that would be good back-up depth, they’re injured also,” Green said.

“We’re throwing some kids in there but as I said, we’ll be better for it down the track.

“They’re learning some tough lessons at the moment but they’ll be better for it down the track if they hang in there and stay tough. We’ll come out the other side a better team.”

Crows thrash Bombers by 65 points in AFL

Adelaide’s attacking aces Taylor Walker and Eddie Betts have gone on scoring sprees in a 65-point AFL drubbing of Essendon.

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The Crows remain top of the ladder after their 24.9 (153) to 13.10 (88) win on Saturday night at Adelaide Oval.

Betts responded to the week’s racism controversy with a six-goal haul.

And Walker slotted five in remarkable first half by the unbeaten Crows.

Walker scored four majors in the first term as Adelaide piled on 9.2, just two points shy of the club’s record highest score for an opening quarter.

And then his sidekick Betts took centre stage in the second term, booting three as Adelaide built a commanding 15.6 to 7.2 halftime lead – both Betts and Walker had five goals each at the long break.

The free-scoring Crows broke the 100-point barrier just four minutes into the third quarter in a power-packed display.

Vice-captain Rory Sloane (34 disposals, two goals), halfback Brodie Smith (33 possessions), Rory Laird (35 disposals) and Matt Crouch (30 touches) ran rampant.

They provided frequent chances for Betts, who was in fine fettle after being involved early in the week in a racism row – there were anti-racism messages on the venue’s large screens and on the Crows’ banner.

By halftime, Betts’ captain Walker had five goals and four score assists against the off-key Bombers, who are with a pair of wins and losses this season.

Essendon’s Anthony McDonald-Tipgungwuti was a standout with four goals and young teammates Travis Colyer (three) and Kyle Langford (two) also hit the scoreboard.

And Zach Merrett (34 possessions) and Brendon Goddard (34 disposals) battled gamely to try to stem the Adelaide tide.

Their feats helped turn the second half into something of a scoring stalemate – Adelaide’s nine to Essendon’s six goals – but the Crows’ job was already done.

Adelaide coach Don Pyke was rapt with his side’s fourth consecutive triumph, particularly their stunning opening half.

“We dropped away in the third quarter but the first half we played some really strong footy,” Pyke said, while praising Betts’ ability to overcome his troubled week.

Essendon’s Conor McKenna faces a report for making head-high contact on Adelaide’s Riley Knight.

“Probably what bothered me the most was .. just how far off the mark we were,” Bombers coach John Worsfold said.

“We couldn’t slow the game down at all.”

Hawks told to lift after AFL basket case

Alastair Clarkson has called last week’s loss a basket case and the Hawthorn coach has gone back to basics for the AFL blockbuster against Geelong.

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But Clarkson says even if the Hawks slump to 0-4 with an Easter Monday loss, their season will still be alive.

He has zeroed in being competitive as the main change he wants to see when they take on the Cats.

After opening the season with four-goal losses to Essendon and Adelaide, Hawthorn slumped to an 86-point capitulation against Gold Coast.

It left the Hawks on the bottom of the ladder and inevitably heightened speculation that their great four-premiership era under Clarkson is now done.

But Clarkson noted that the Suns’ demolition of his team was a massive turnaround from their performance the week before.

Gold Coast and Fremantle are now 2-2 after poor starts to the season.

“The first two (games) were okay in terms of competitiveness – last week was a basket case game for us,” Clarkson said.

“Good teams respond (to) those sorts of situations.

“It can easily turn around – Fremantle were walloped a couple of weeks ago and won their last two games.

“Gold Coast – we saw the difference in them from one week to the next, it was nearly a 200-point turnaround in terms of the fortunes of the side.”

Hawthorn made two unforced changes for Monday’s match and Clarkson said there could have been plenty more.

But he said attitude, not personnel, will be the key to upsetting the unbeaten Cats.

“Really it just comes down to a genuine commitment to the contest and we were really poor interstate last week,” he said.

“We’re not going to get any pardons from Geelong, but we need to make the play.

“On the back of last week’s performance, we probably had two players in the side who could put their hand up and say ‘I went okay for the team’.

“You could make numerous changes.”

Clarkson noted that Hawthorn made the finals in 2010 after a 1-6 start.

“As long as you just have belief and resolve that you’ll work your way out of it, then we’ll be fine,” he said.

The Hawks also lost star recruit Jaeger O’Meara to a knee injury.

O’Meara has a well-documented history of knee problems, but Clarkson is hopeful the midfielder will only be out for one week.

“He had a scan earlier in the week and we thought it was going to be okay,” he said.

“But then it didn’t progress over the next three days … it wasn’t worth fiddling around.

“From what we gather … albeit it’s a knock to the same knee that’s been sore previously, (but) we don’t think there’s anything related.

“So hopefully that will settle down over the next week and he’ll play next week.”