Clifford hits back at legend’s criticism
COWBOYS young gun Jake Clifford has hit back at claims the side needs to switch his halves pairing with captain Michael Morgan.
Queensland State of Origin legend Justin Hodges suggested earlier this week that Morgan needed to return to five-eighth in an effort to bring back his sizzling running game which was a key cog to North Queensland's run to the 2017 grand final.
But Clifford, who returned to the first-grade squad in the side's loss to Cronulla last week, said the switch was not necessary.
"I am happy with the way things are, if 'Morgo' sees space then he is going to run the ball," Clifford said.
"I don't think it is going to change much in the seven or six with Mick, he's going to be a leader and he is the captain. I don't think we will change anything at all."
Hodges condemned the Cowboys on Queenslanders Only on Fox Sports this week as he suggested the side had "no strike".
"They've got no attack to be honest. There's no strike," Hodges said.
"If you look at the sides that are at the top of the competition and sides that go on to win grand finals, they've got unbelievable forward packs but their strike out wide, that's what wins you the games, apart from the big work the forwards do up the middle.
"At the moment, there's just no structure. They're running past the ball.
"Their timing's all off and they're passing out the back and sides are just starting to drift off a lot earlier because their outside edges are going hard through the line too early and that takes all the sting out of their attack."
Clifford, who has come under scrutiny this week after a lacklustre return against the Sharks, admitted he had plenty to work on - most notably his relationship with Morgan.
The pair had yet to partner up in NRL action before the clash with Cronulla after Clifford got his start partnering Cowboys great Johnathan Thurston in his debut season last year.
"He is obviously a different player than Johnno, but in saying that it was great to play alongside him, and I am keen to learn alongside him and get a good combination going," Clifford said of Morgan.
"Morgo and I both like to control the calls, but if one of us calls it we will kind of just play off the back of each other and kind of support the decision they make on the field. We don't really overcall it. If one of us calls a play, we kind of stick with it.
"If I want to stay here a long time, we need to play good footy and I need to have that combination with (Morgan). Definitely before training we are always talking about how we are going to approach it and things we can work on against the team we are versing."
Clifford has been given a second crack at the Cowboys five-eighth role as the side aims up for a second-straight home game against Canberra Raiders at 1300SMILES Stadium on Saturday.
Only into his eighth career game in the top flight the 21-year-old half admitted he still had plenty to learn on the field.
"I am always working on repeat effort kind of stuff. In the NRL you get picked on for that kind of stuff. It is just little things I have to work on like defensive stuff … getting my hands on the ball," he said.