Cowboys' Origin verdict delay likely - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Cowboys' Origin verdict delay likely

By Laine Clark 02/12/2008 07:56:58 PM Comments (0)

The Cowboys are yet to discuss whether to make Neil Henry and Billy Johnstone available for Origin duty despite the Queensland Rugby League hoping to receive an update by Friday.

The QRL are sweating on finalising Queensland coach Mal Meninga's support staff and will discuss the issue at Friday's board meeting at Brisbane.

But North Queensland boss Peter Parr said the NRL club may not decide whether to release master tactician Henry and fitness guru Johnstone until as late as the New Year.

"At a board meeting before Christmas or the one in the New Year we will discuss it," Parr told AAP.

"We have not made any decision as yet.

"Our priority is ensuring we have a good pre-season. Neil and Billy's focus has been settling back into Townsville ... rather than worrying too much about Origin as yet.

"I think most people would understand that."

Henry will oversee his first season as Cowboys head coach in 2009 while Johnstone has returned to North Queensland after a stint at the Gold Coast.

Both are key members of Meninga's staff - Henry was a Maroons assistant for their stunning run of three straight series wins while Johnstone's punishing fitness programs are legendary.

QRL managing director Ross Livermore had hoped that Meninga would give him an update on Henry and Johnstone's availability at the Friday meeting.

"In all honesty we would dearly like to have both on board but if they are not going to be there we have to make alternate arrangements," Livermore said.

"I can understand if they said that they are not prepared to release one of them, because they want to keep them involved with the NRL premiership.

"As you saw last year (2008 NRL season) when their staff were away there were problems."

The Cowboys endured a horror 2008, finishing second-last with a 5-19 record.

Parr said the NRL club had higher priorities than Origin duty right now.

"I respect that they would want to know as soon as possible but it's a fairly big decision for us and we will make it at our own time," he said.

QRL chairman John McDonald understood the Cowboys' predicament.

"Some of the clubs are a bit reluctant to release some of their coaching staff," he said.

"It's a hotly contested competition, the NRL, and people want to be winners so they want to leave no stone unturned.

"We like to work in with the clubs, make sure not everyone is from one club because it can be a drain.

"But we've got a good relationship with the clubs. It's not a problem - if there needs to be a change we will make a change."

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