Hodges warns Cowboys need to bite the bullet
FORMER Australia Test star legend Justin Hodges says North Queensland coach Paul Green must bite the bullet and drop outside backs Justin O'Neill and Antonio Winterstein.
After being considered title favourites in the pre-season the Cowboys are currently languishing in 14th on the NRL ladder after 10 rounds with just three wins.
Following his side's disappointing 20-12 loss to the Wests Tigers last Thursday, Green hinted he'd swing the selection axe, but has instead stuck with the same side for this week's crucial match against South Sydney at 1300 Smiles Stadium.
The Cowboys outside backs were identified as a weak point before a ball had been kicked, with club legend Brent Tate pleading for more speed in the side.
O'Neill and Winterstein have struggled for form this season with the former having a particularly unhappy outing against the Tigers with five handling errors.
"You've got to change the outside backs for sure," Hodges said.
"You can't replace Matty Scott, he's going okay.
"At the moment, Justin O'Neill and Antonio Winterstein are letting them down.
"You saw on the weekend (O'Neill) had five drop balls, clear drop balls that are right in front of you. You learn to catch in under 7s.
"That's not acceptable, he's an Origin player."
Fellow ex-Test star Corey Parker believed it was unfair to single out individuals with the whole side having inconsistent performances.
"It's a tough conversation for Paul Green to have because there's not one player that's coming up with all these errors," Parker said.
"It's a collective group performance.
"So you can't go, 'you're the problem, out you go, someone else in', when the whole group haven't stood up."
But Hodges said change was needed, and it needed to come as soon as possible.
"You've got the fix something now," he said.
"If you keep worrying about next week, next week, giving players chances you're never going to get to where you want to get to."
In a sign that change may actually happen before the Rabbitohs clash, Green has named Enari Tuala and Javid Bowen on the reserves list.
Hodges praised 19-year-old Tuala, who played has one NRL game to his name to date and said playing alongside the retiring Johnathan Thurston would prove invaluable for the future.
"There's a young kid called Enari, he's a centre," Hodges said.
"He's a great talent. He was in the junior kangaroos last year and should've played Queensland 20s but he got injured. He's in unbelievable talent.
"Javid Bowen is another guy.
"They're young guys, if you don't give them a taste of football ... and one of the greatest footballers of all time is retiring this year, why not give them a chance to play with him so they can learn and understand the game.
"All those good habits that he does, these kids can pick up on.
"Next year they won't have that."