Thurston: The one man Cowboys can’t afford to lose
THERE are internationals, Origin reps and premiership winners to re-sign but North Queensland Cowboys legend Johnathan Thurston has declared the most important deal his club has to get done in 2018: Coach Paul Green.
Entering his fifth season in charge of the Cowboys, the murmurings around Green's retention are positive but some believe that uncertainty can creep in if the coach isn't secured early in the season.
The Cowboys look like having to fork out around the $1 million-a-season mark to keep Michael Morgan in Townsville, Lachlan Coote is exploring what options he has in order to cash in, while Ethan Lowe, Kane Linnett, Justin O'Neill, Jake Granville and Antonio Winterstein all off-contract at the end of the season.
Thurston won't be extending his career into a 15th season with the Cowboys but said the club must do everything it can to ensure Green not only agrees to a new deal but has a tenure in Townsville to rival that of Wayne Bennett in Brisbane and Craig Bellamy at the Storm.
"That will be the club's biggest signing, retaining Paul," Thurston told foxsports.com.au a week out from his testimonial game at Suncorp Stadium alongside good mate Cameron Smith.
"Hopefully we can get that done sooner rather than later.
"He's got his squad that he's assembled now since his arrival. It's a pretty healthy roster and I have no doubts in my mind that if he stays here he could be a Bellamy or Wayne type coach.
"He's one of the best that I've been involved with."
An assistant at both the Broncos and Roosters as well as a successful stint as head coach of Wynnum Manly in the Intrust Super Cup, Green took over a team that had made three finals series in succession and turned them into winners.
He'd won the club's first trophy - the 2014 Auckland Nines title - before ever coaching an NRL game and in four years has guided the team to two grand finals and a premiership.
From 109 games in charge Green boasts a winning percentage of 61.5 per cent (Bellamy's career mark at the Storm is 68.1, Bennett's at Brisbane 63.9) and will start 2018 in charge of one of the premiership favourites.
Thurston refused to divulge any of the techniques Green has implemented to bring success to North Queensland, saying that it is honesty above all else that the players respond most to.
"I don't want to give away his secrets but what you need to do is to get the best out of your squad," Thurston said.
"We've got a game-plan here, we've got structures in attack and defence that we stick to.
"It doesn't matter if you've played 200 games for the club or you haven't played any, you need to understand those structures and stick to those every day.
"That's not only on the field but off the field as well.
"The players have all got the utmost respect for 'Greeny'.
"He's very honest in everything that he does.
"There is no beating around the bush with Greeny. He tells you how it is and that's what the boys like.
"They don't want to be told different things, they want to be told what to do, what they need to work on and how they can get better.
"That's what he does, he gets the best out of his squad."