Centre Kane Linnett is one of the senior Cowboys players coach Paul Green hopes will step up against the Knights in Newcastle. Credit: Colin Whelan. Copyright: NRL Photos.
The Cowboys' trip down to Newcastle on Monday night brings with it multiple unanswered questions about road performance, and multiple thousand critics nationwide with keyboards at the ready, willing to write off the northerners if they let another one slip.
Coach Paul Green expects the answers to come this week, but not from their superstar half hell-bent on revenge after Wednesday's Origin series loss. Instead, he insists it will come from 'the other guys'.
In a media conference on Sunday, Green put onus on the more experienced Cowboys to step up and deliver in the absence of key players, naming the likes of brothers Ashton and Tariq Sims to rally and pave the way.
"There are quite a few guys there who have played 60+ NRL games so they are not rookies any more so it's time for those guys to stand up," Green said.
"A lot of those guys have to really take a leadership role, not just Ashton Sims. It will come back to those 60+ game guys; they are the guys we really need something from. I'm not asking for them to be superstars but they need to do their job and do their job well."
The one statistic North Queensland is desperate to rectify is the disparity in points conceded at away venues (23 points) compared with home turf (12), and while Newcastle are the second-worst team in attack this year, Green says his side should never fail to underestimate the value of desperation and commitment in an opposing footy side.
"We are going to go down there and playing a team that's committed. They've had a pretty horrible season so far for different reasons and everyone wants wins and they are no different to anyone else, they are going to be desperate for that and we are going to have to play well," he said.
"Every game away is another opportunity to shut everyone up regarding our away record. I just think it's about playing well, in particular defending well for us."
With many questions prior to Monday night, one such unanswered one comes in the form of Johnathan Thurston who sustained a corked thigh in Wednesday's State of Origin, but who is expected to play.
"He's a little bit ginger on his leg but he'll be fine by Monday physically, but emotionally State of Origin is such a massive game and when they lose in such a game as what they did on Wednesday it's obviously going to take a toll on the players but I'm sure he will be ready to go on Monday," Green said.
However, there are no such queries with Monday's line-up despite the ever-increasing casualty ward now at seven names - all but one expected to be sidelined for at least six weeks.
"It's a big blow for the club missing the guys that we have lost. Matty Wright will move into the centres and Curtis Rona will come onto the wing. We have prepared without those guys for the past two weeks so in terms of getting ready to play Monday night, nothing has really changed for us."