Brisbane may have exceeded the expectations of many with their 4-4 start to the season but fullback Ben Barba believes a rejuvenated Johnathan Thurston and an improving Cowboys outfit will present their sternest test to date.
The latest chapter in a rivalry that now stretches across 20 seasons will be played out in Townsville on Friday night where the Cowboys will move into the top eight for the first time since Round 2 if they can record a win on home soil.
After a convincing win over Parramatta last start and Thurston's influence in the Kangaroos' win over New Zealand last Friday, Barba insists that a win over the Cowboys this week will deliver a great confidence boost to the Broncos' premiership aspirations.
"I think their last game against Parra' really showed what they are capable of – especially [with] 'Johno' [Thurston] coming off a great performance in the Test," Barba said.
"When he's on [form] the boys around him up there really pick up and go with him. So it's going to be another tough game as it was the first time we played them.
"We're really looking forward to see where we are at because we see them as one of the top teams of the competition when they're at their best. Hopefully we can match it with them again and come away with the two [competition points].
"The boys are all eager to play the Cowboys because we know what sort of games we play against each other and I'm sure they'll be fired up and ready to go and get one back over us.
"It was pretty relaxing to have the last few days off, [but] we're back today and looking forward to Friday."
The Broncos recorded a tough 16-12 win over a wasteful Cowboys side when they met in Round 2 but since then have suffered defeats of seven points or less to the Roosters, Eels, Titans and Rabbitohs.
The inability to close out games has been a focus over the Representative Round break and Barba said that the entire squad is keen to show that they can deliver an 80-minute performance against the Cowboys.
"We've got some good coaching staff here who have gone through [the matches] with individuals to try and define what we're doing wrong and why we are losing games in the last 10 minutes," he said.
"Everyone has been working hard and we all recognise the problems we have. Hopefully we can put an 80-minute performance together this weekend and really go through with it.
The 2012 Dally M winner was more than forthcoming when asked what the problems that need addressing were.
"Like every team we need to repeat our sets after we score points. That's the main thing – you get a roll on and then you find yourself defending your line two tackles in – so just little things like that have been letting us down a few times," he said.
"We put some points on the board and then we find ourselves defending again. We know that we can't do that again this weekend up in Townsville."
It will be two weeks come Friday since Brisbane's heartbreaking two-point loss to the Rabbitohs and Barba says that while the representative weekend's fixtures offered a chance to recuperate after a strenuous opening eight rounds of the competition, the loss to Souths in the dying minutes from an Adam Reynolds penalty goal still hurts amongst the playing group.
Having the Souths' result linger in the minds of the Broncos' players was going to be a challenge to overcome, however Brisbane's fullback recognises the need to dust themselves off and hop back in the saddle as they look ahead to taking on a Cowboys' side coming off a comprehensive 42-14 flogging of the Eels.
"That's always the case when you lose. You feel you need to get back out there the week after and play, but unfortunately we had the representative weekend," he said.