Neil Henry has been given six weeks to save his coaching career. The Sun-Herald has been told the North Queensland coach will be punted if he is unable to immediately turn around the fortunes of the underperforming club. 

The ruthless nature of life as a coach in the NRL was highlighted when Brisbane’s Ivan Henjak was sacked this week before a ball had been kicked in the 2011 premiership. Ironically, his replacement, assistant coach Anthony Griffin, had been earmarked as a target for the Cowboys if Henry suffers the same fate. Like Henjak, Henry has a strained relationship with senior players. Despite denials from both parties, it is an open secret that there has been friction with star playmaker Johnathan Thurston. The Cowboys are yet to confirm whether Thurston will retain the captaincy. There is no shortage of potential replacements with Wayne Bennett, Ricky Stuart, Michael Maguire, Mal Meninga, Daniel Anderson, Nathan Brown and Jason Taylor among those available. The Cowboys have made significant changes to their management, coaching structure and playing roster in an attempt to reverse their fortunes. Phil Gould, the most successful NSW coach in Origin history, was consulted as part of an off-season review of the club. ”The Cowboys are highly motivated to make changes,” Gould told The Sun-Herald. ”They’ve done everything possible to give the coach and the players every opportunity to be successful. I’m cheering for them.” North Queensland lost more games, 19, than any other side with revelations of Melbourne’s salary cap rorting the only thing saving them from the wooden spoon. The disappointing result came despite the fact Henry had star players Thurston, Matt Bowen, Willie Tonga, Matthew Scott and Aaron Payne. Although the Cowboys have lost Luke O’Donnell, Willie Mason, Carl Webb, Ty Williams, Anthony Watts, Arana Taumata and Steve Rapira in the off-season, they have been one of the most active clubs in the player market. On paper they appear even stronger, having added Brent Tate (currently injured), Dallas Johnson, Antonio Winterstein, Kalifa Faifai Loa, Ben Jones, Ricky Thorby, Gavin Cooper and Ashton and Tariq Sims to their roster. It leaves the pressure squarely on Henry, who has been installed as the coach most likely to be sacked before the end of the season. Sportingbet Australia has quoted Henry as the $3 favourite to get the axe first ahead of South Sydney’s John Lang ($5), Newcastle’s Rick Stone and Cronulla’s Shane Flanagan (both $7). ”Neil Henry is clearly the shortest-priced coach to leave before the end of the season after two very disappointing seasons up north,” said Sportingbet Australia boss Michael Sullivan. ”He has had a team with plenty of stars, including the world’s best player in Jonathan Thurston, and failed to deliver. ”The Cowboys look like they could be in for another tough season after losing star recruit Brent Tate to injury and I think they will finish the season closer to the foot of the ladder than the top. They are second favourite at $5.50 to record the least wins for the season and punters have been happy to take that price. If the Cowboys have a poor start to the season, Henry will be looking down the barrel as there is no shortage of quality coaches on the market at the moment.”