Clifford gets his shot at the Sharks
PAUL Green insists Queensland's winning under-20s playmaker Jake Clifford knows what he needs to do in his return on Saturday amid a Cowboys backline reshuffle for their home clash againt Cronulla.
Clifford, 21, was named at five-eighth for his first match of 2019 after having lost his place in the halves pecking order which he held when he played six matches last year.
Green dropped both centres, Justin O'Neill and Tom Opacic, from the team overpowered by the Broncos last Friday and moved Te Maire Martin from No.6 to fullback, drafting Jordan Kahu to a centre role against the Sharks.
"He played a few games for us there last year so he knows what to expect, playing NRL, so the ball is in his court,'' Green said.
"His challenge is to stay there. I've spoken to Jake about what he needs to be good at. When you are playing in the lower grades you can drift in and out of games and still play well.
"Playing first grade, you don't have that luxury. The change in the halves adds a little extra in our kicking game. Te Maire is fairly dangerous where he can bob up where he wants.''
When speaking minutes after the loss to Brisbane five days earlier, Green had said Clifford needed to learn "some lessons'' and become more consistent in games.
The team changes are a departure from his thinking in fashioning a Cowboys team which must also play without the injured Jason Taumalolo for at least six weeks due to a knee ligament injury.
Corey Jenson is the addition to the Cowboys forwards rotation as a bench player, with Coen Hess named to start.
"We don't have to (fill a hole left by Taumalolo). Josh McGuire is a fairly handy player and he will start at lock,'' Green said.
"We have a bit better depth, It makes it easier, having picked up Josh.''
The Cowboys coach was publicly blunt on Friday night in his assessment that they had not met the physical challenge of the Broncos and was as keen as anyone to see the response of his side.
"Whenever a footy team is beaten in that area, it's a dent to the pride. I didn't challenge them personally, but the fact is the Broncos were better than us physically on the night,'' Green said.
"How they take that, we'll see.''
The Cowboys would make use of Martin's instinctive attack from fullback, Green said.
Green said O'Neill, who played four games for Queensland in 2016-17, would return to first grade in time, but had paid for his match against the Broncos.
"He needs to carry (the ball) with a bit more punch, particularly in yardage. To be fair he was probably dominated there a little bit and he's had some errors in his game too,'' he said.
"Jordan has done a pretty good job for us. He needs to get a bit more match fitness (because) there is a fair bit of running at fullback.''