Getting sacked is never fun but Neil Henry admits his dumping as North Queensland coach has helped inspire the Cowboys’ unlikely NRL finals tilt.
Henry was understandably unhappy when told last month his services would not be required next year.
However, Henry could find one positive from his axing as the 11th-placed Cowboys looked to extend their three-game unbeaten streak against Newcastle in Townsville on Saturday night.
Asked what has been the difference in the side the past three weeks, Henry said on Tuesday: “There’s a bit of certainty about a few things.
“Obviously my contract, that’s over and done with now. That does alleviate pressure on the players.
“And there was also probably the notion that we weren’t going to make the finals and we relaxed and played a bit of footy.
“Another thing is we have some continuity in our key positions.”
North Queensland have not lost since Henry got the dreaded tap on the shoulder, moving them to one win outside the top eight with three rounds left.
They must seal a club record six straight victories to ensure they remain a finals chance.
But it is enough to keep Henry focussed on the job at hand despite his looming unemployment.
Henry had been linked to an assistant coach role at the Gold Coast Titans.
However, when asked about his future, Henry said: “My job is here, I am not finished yet.
“I will leave it up to any club to make any announcement about my future if they see fit.
“At the moment there has been no commitment to any club but we will wait and see.”
Henry described the current Cowboys’ mood as “quietly optimistic” ahead of their must-win clash with the seventh-placed Newcastle.
“We are getting close but not close enough to start worrying about finals footy yet,” he said.
“But there is a lot of confidence about our footy.”
Henry also credited their turnaround with the emergence of hooker Ray Thompson and halfback Robert Lui, Matt Bowen’s return to form at fullback and rookie Kyle Feldt’s ease at filling injured winger Ash Graham’s big shoes.
But Henry was clearly unhappy with forward Ashton Sims who accepted a one match ban for a grade one careless high tackle charge stemming from last round’s 22-10 win over the Titans.
Asked if Sims needed to change his tackling technique, Henry said: “He’s been told that.
“He needs to re-think it because it has been a bit costly.
“Normally that charge would not incur a week’s suspension but Ashton’s had priors.”