O'Neill tips tough times will help Cowboys
FROM the success of premierships, surrounded by seasoned rugby league stars, the current situation of the Cowboys is new territory for Justin O'Neill.
Coming from the consistent powerhouse that is the Melbourne Storm to a title-winning North Queensland outfit has meant success has been part and parcel of his career.
However with the likes of Johnathan Thurston, Matt Scott and Scott Bolton having drawn the curtains on their playing days, a fresh chapter has dawned at the Cowboys as several up-and-coming players attempt to make their mark in the NRL.
The regeneration has coincided with on-field woes, with the club in the midst of a disappointing three-game losing streak and struggling to find answers for their defensive lapses.
It was not that long ago that O'Neill endured his own form issues, culminating in being dropped from the first-grade side and back to the Townsville Blackhawks.
But that was where he rediscovered his mojo, that was where he realised even as a senior player he needed to be held accountable.
"Going back to the Blackhawks and seeing how they would prepare for games, guys were coming into training after a full day of labour," O'Neill said.
"Seeing it from a different perspective and them wanting to play games on the weekend, for me it was inspiring. I thought these guys are probably working twice as hard as what I have to do to get through an NRL week.
"Our training is hard but it's not the same as doing a full day of work and then coming to training.
"Seeing it from a different perspective opened me up to how fortunate I was to be in the NRL squad, so going back I didn't want to waste that opportunity."
North Queensland will get the chance to turn their fortunes around against a confident Newcastle Knights outfit at Queensland Country Bank Stadium.
The Novocastrians have established themselves as a force in 2020 and currently sit second on the NRL ladder.
While their clash will begin a daunting run of fixtures against the top sides in the competition, O'Neill said it presented the best chance to lift themselves out of their slump.
"I've seen it happen before in teams where it might not be going so well and it's the really tough games, they come up against a team seen as a high contender, and they end up putting a really good performance together," he said.
"It can make a big difference to a team's season having some confidence and getting a win under your belt, especially against a team you see at a high standard.
"It's going to take everyone to buy into it … and wanting to turn our season around and start putting the effort in the smaller areas in our games and working hard for each other.
"I think at times when it's started to get a bit tough we've probably gone into our shells and played as individuals a bit.
"I think in times like that we really need to come together and play for each other, really unite, and I think that's something that's going to come from effort areas."