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Walters an option as Cowboys axe Henry

Australian captain Cameron Smith has given Kevin Walters a ringing endorsement to succeed Neil Henry, with the North Queensland coach told he would not be required in 2014.

Just four months after being given an extension for 2014 as a reward for finals appearances in 2011 and 2012, Henry was informed of his termination at season's end - the veteran coach paying the price for his side's dismal 2013 campaign.

The Cowboys have won just six of 18 games to be fourth-last on the ladder, with Friday night's 18-16 loss to Brisbane ending the club's finals hopes and sealing Henry's fate.

Cowboys skipper Johnathan Thurston said he felt for his coach, admitting his absence would be felt next year.

"I feel for him and his family. It's a results-driven business and we haven't performed well. The players need to take responsibility for that too," he said on Monday.

Under Neil Henry, the Cowboys have won 52 of 117 games for a 44 per cent success rate. Photo/NRL.COM
"There's no doubt he's a great coach and tactically very smart. Certainly it's been fun playing underneath him, I've got a great relationship with him. It's going to be tough without him.

"We just all need to stick strong and play for each other. I can't fault the coaching staff or the players for the hard work that they're putting in."

Walters, who last week announced he would leave his role as assistant to Craig Bellamy at premiers Melbourne at the end of the year to return to Queensland, is the early favourite for the job.

Journeyman halfback Paul Green - currently coach of the Sydney Roosters under 20s side - and former NSW Origin five-eighth Trent Barrett, who is an assistant at Penrith, have also been mentioned as candidates.

Barrett's manager Wayne Beavis says he has had no contact from the Cowboys regarding his client.

Walters has already declared his desire to land a head coaching role, Melbourne captain Smith claiming the 45-year-old former Test and Queensland Origin five-eighth would suit the struggling Cowboys, who have Test stars Thurston, Matt Scott and James Tamou in their ranks.

"He's a Queenslander so that's a great fit there already," the Test and Queensland skipper said on Monday.

"He's got a relationship with a lot of players at the North Queensland Cowboys.

"He knows the majority of the players up there quite well so I think it would be a good fit. But I'm not going to comment on whether he should get the job or not."

Indirectly boosting Walters' chances of landing the job would no doubt be the success of another Bellamy protege in Michael Maguire - who has South Sydney flying high at the top of the ladder.

Like Maguire did with Wigan, Walters spent time as a head coach in Super League with Catalans, Smith insisting Walters was worthy of an opportunity.

"When you talk about credentials, I don't think there'd be too many better than Kevie as far as a player's concerned," Smith said.

"He's won premierships; he's played State of Origin; he's represented Australia - he's been involved in the coaching game for a long time now."

In four and a half seasons at the club, Henry achieved only moderate success with the Cowboys - last year's semi-final loss to Manly his best result despite boasting a squad brimming with representative talent.

He re-signed at the same time the club retained the services of Thurston and Scott in March, but was under pressure almost from the outset with the Cowboys losing three of their first four and nine of their first 13 games.


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