After an awful and winless opening four rounds, the Cowboys won six from eight to push themselves into the top eight heading into the round 13 bye but their following four games featured three huge losses in NSW by a combined 134-36 and one narrow loss at home as they slumped back to 12th.
They players don’t expect the home ground advantage to do the work for them but are hoping to recapture their earlier form in their return to Queensland Country Bank Stadium.
“Obviously we’re very disappointed, it’s been an embarrassing month,” said five-eighth Scott Drinkwater.
“It’s been tough. I know every week we’re coming in, we’re out on the field working hard for two and a half hours out there in the heat busting our backsides to get better. It’s just coming down to a lot of different moments in games.
“We’re working hard, we want to win and we want to get better and we’re trying but at the moment nothing is getting put in place on the field so we’re trying to fix that.”
He believed the team had been “pretty good” on its home patch, where the Cowboys won five in a row before a last-start two-point loss to the Sharks in round 15.
“It’s going to be good, we always love playing up here,” he said.
“We lost a couple at the start and our last one against Cronulla but we’ve been pretty good of late at home. We’re looking forward to it, looking forward to playing in front of our fans. We’re coming up against a good Roosters team who stay in the game for 80 minutes.”
Drinkwater admitted the coming month, which features four games in Queensland due to the Covid situation in Sydney, could be “make or break” with the next fortnight against the Roosters and Storm particularly tough.
“The two homes games will be big for us but it won’t be easy against two of the top teams in the competition, home games isn’t what going to make us win these games, it’s playing for the full 80, competing and trying hard,” he added.
“We can’t look too much into where we’re playing, it’s what we do on the field.
“We definitely have to start winning. You could say it’s make or break, the next three or four weeks coming up. We had a chat about where we should be around at the end of the season so we have to start winning games and it’s a good opportunity this weekend.”
Forward Tom Gilbert agreed with Drinkwater’s assessment.
“I’d [we’re] say embarrassed because we put ourselves in a good position before the bye to really make a good impact on the comp and it’s not like we haven’t been working hard,” Gilbert said.
“It’s been a bit of inconsistency with our playing and our attitudes going into games. It is embarrassing, we’re full-time professionals, we get paid to do this and I think the way we’ve been playing the last month unfortunately puts some question marks around if we genuinely want to care.
“They’re tough conversations to have but at the end of the day we know what we have to do and we know how to get ourselves out of it, it’s just about doing it.”
It’s been a frustrating season for the young forward, who has been impressive while on field but endured a delayed started with injury then missed last week due to being forced into isolation over a COVID scare.
“It was long days [in isolation] and it was frustrating watching the boys against Newcastle,” he said.
“I did have that urge to get out there and back around the boys so that was tough and tested my patience but it was something out of my control and I had to deal with it the best I can.
“[This season] has been a bit of a mixed bag. When we’ve been losing too you start questioning things you’re doing and wondering if you’re giving the best performance you can for the team and doing your role.
“I probably had one or two games where I’ve questioned if I’ve given the best service I can for the team in my position which isn’t always a good thing but I’m pretty fortunate there’s always next week and I’ve got the opportunity to do it again.”