Cowboys skipper Jordan McLean backs under fire half after Chad Townsend signing
Cowboys skipper Jordan McLean backs under fire half after Chad Townsend signing

Cowboys skipper backs under fire half after Townsend signing

Cowboys interim captain Jordan McLean has thrown his support behind Scott Drinkwater in light of the club signing a rival half.

Cronulla premiership-winner Chad Townsend has inked a three-year deal with North Queensland from 2022 onwards, as a replacement for the retired Michael Morgan and outgoing Jake Clifford.

Coach Todd Payten has never shied from the fact his outfit needs an organising halfback, and with the 2016 title to his credit Townsend has been identified as that man.

It poses question marks over the future at the Cowboys current halves pairing Drinkwater and Ben Hampton, who are both off contract at the end of the season.

Payten told media on Tuesday that all the current scrumbase could do was keep playing good football to make a case for a new contract "whether it's here or somewhere else".

The rumour mill has also been circling that Brisbane Broncos young gun Tom Dearden was being earmarked to step into the number six jersey next year in a new look pairing.

 

However McLean backed both Drinkwater and Hampton to do everything they could to cement themselves in the club's plans beyond the 2021 campaign, beginning this weekend against the Canberra Raiders.

He said he may have suffered heartbreak at Townsend's hands in the Sharks' breakthrough premiership from his days with the Melbourne Storm, however the addition of the 30-year-old would be crucial in their long term success.

"It's a good signing, obviously there was the unfortunate news about Morgo this year so it will be good to have Chaddy up here," McLean said.

"His potency in big games, (like) that grand final that I've played against him in - I wasn't happy about that - but it will be good to have him up here.

"Obviously he's got a lot of experience, he's played a lot of games and his game management is very good. I'm not sure what's happening with Drinky, but hopefully he stays and they will be a good pairing."

Part of the appeal behind Townsend was not just what he brought to the field, but what he does off it.

Payten stressed they needed the type of player who could help harness the young talent within the Cowboys ranks, and with 183-NRL games to his credit the belief is he could be that man.

"We have made no secret of our intentions to secure a senior half after we lost our captain Michael Morgan to retirement," Payten said.

"We were looking for a composed organising halfback who can steer the team around the park and I believe we have found that in Chad.

"He is a gifted kicker of the football, tackles well and is a strong voice on the field, which were three areas we highlighted when entering the market for a half."

 

For now, McLean has his sights set on this Saturday's contest against Canberra, where he and his teammates have the chance to make it three wins on the trot.

In North Queensland's back to back victories over the Tigers and Bulldogs, the 29-year-old's own output has improved - his 114 running metres and 25 tackles against Wests statistically his best in 2021.

However with those two sides languishing towards the bottom of the ladder, this week's test at Queensland Country Bank Stadium will likely be the truest indication of whether they truly have learnt from their misgivings.

The Cowboys have still made more errors (85) and more ineffective tackles (1290 than any other team in the competition, while they are also fifth for penalties conceded.

Faced with a Raiders unit fresh off a trademark Ricky Stuart rev up, the likes of Jack Wighton and Josh Papalii are expected to come out swinging following an uncharacteristically poor performance against Parramatta.

McLean said North Queensland had been guilty of shooting themselves in the foot this year, but the fact they had been able to close out wins in tight clashes had renewed belief in the squad that they were headed in the right direction.

Jordan McLean. NRL; North Queensland Cowboys Vs Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs at Queensland Country Bank Stadium, Townsville. Picture: Alix Sweeney
Jordan McLean. NRL; North Queensland Cowboys Vs Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs at Queensland Country Bank Stadium, Townsville. Picture: Alix Sweeney

And the key could be in the impact their bench has provided, with Francis Molo and Corey Jensen both turning in powerhouse display last weekend.

"Obviously there's a few changes in their team (Canberra), but I think for us - especially the first couple of games - we were beating ourselves." McLean said.

"It's very important we worry about us and make sure we're not beating ourselves this weekend.

"The last couple of weeks I've been pretty happy, on the weekend I thought I was a little bit down, but the whole team have lifted over the last couple of games and that's why we have the wins under our belts.

"There's definitely some more belief in the team."

 

nick.wright@news.com.au

Originally published as Cowboys skipper backs under fire half after Townsend signing



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