North Queensland's coach and co-captain have blamed a post-Origin hangover for a below-par effort from several stars in Friday night's 18-16 loss to the Eels at Pirtek Stadium.
After the match Cowboys coach Paul Green said it was a match of missed opportunities, with the side finishing far stronger than the home team but just failing to pull a win out of the fire.
"I was always worried about this game with our Origin players," Green said.
"I wasn't worried so much about how they'd back up last week but this game was worrying. I thought they were a bit flat but it's up to the rest of the guys to have a better effort than what we produced tonight so we're not always relying on those guys to carry us as a team."
He conceded the Eels shocked his side with strong starts to each half and put the Cowboys on the back foot, which they weren't quite able to recover from.
"Across the board we had too many guys that were off a little bit. You can still play well as a team when you have one or two guys that are down five or 10 per cent but tonight we had several guys that weren't at or near their best."
Club co-captain Matt Scott, one of the four Cowboys players (along with Johnathan Thurston, Brent Tate and James Tamou) playing their third game in 10 days, said the second game after Origin is harder than the first to back up from.
"It's hard backing up but the next week, especially another short week like we had with travel, it's pretty tough on the body, I thought a few of us were a little bit flat tonight. It's a matter of the team lifting us up a little bit instead of the other way around," he said.
"I'm not sure what the solution is. It'd be good not having to back up but it'd be pretty tough to extend the NRL series by three weeks. Something needs to be done about it."