Cowboys wait to learn their fate
In the aftermath of a comprehensive 30-16 win over the Sea Eagles, Cowboys coach Paul Green was in no mood to turn his hand to fortune-telling but took comfort in the guarantee of a home final at some point in the 2014 Telstra Premiership Finals Series.
Whether the Cowboys will meet the Roosters in Week One in Sydney or host the Broncos in Townsville all hinges on the result of the Panthers clash with the Warriors on Sunday evening, the final game of the regular season.
If the Warriors win the Cowboys will hold their current position in the top four and play the minor premiers at Allianz Stadium while a Panthers victory would see an all-Queensland sudden-death derby at 1300SMILES Stadium where North Queensland notched a club record 10th straight win at home on Saturday night.
"The ladder will sort itself out. We've done our bit now, there are a number of different scenarios, it probably all comes down to that Penrith game," Green said.
"We'll sit back and do what we normally do post match and worry about where we've got to play next week."
An assignment against the Roosters to start a finals campaign would have been all the more daunting had the Cowboys not broken free of their Sydney hoodoo in the second half of the season.
Wins over the Bulldogs and Rabbitohs in particular were proof enough that Green's men can take their late-season surge on the road and with a 42-10 win over the Roosters in Round 10 co-captain Matt Scott said that away games no longer hold a mental edge over them.
"We had to get that monkey off our back and we wouldn't be in this situation now if we didn't get those wins away from home," Scott said.
"It was probably a good stretch of games there – I think I was out when we had the two wins in Sydney – but it definitely gives us a bit more confidence but the games get a lot bigger from now on."
A key factor in the Cowboys' push for a top four finish has been the form of five-eighth Robert Lui alongside superstar halfback Johnathan Thurston.
An improved attitude to his preparation earned Lui a one-year contract extension for 2015 and Scott says the extra work on the training paddock is having a major influence on Lui's performances on game day.
"I think his confidence, especially over the last month or so has picked up," Scott said of Lui who scored a try, had 43 touches to Thurston's 53 and peppered the Manly back three with pin-point bombs into the corners.
"Robbie's been working really hard off the field too, I think that's probably the biggest area for him to get right and when he's ticking all the boxes off the field it transfers over to on the field.
"He's just going about his business and he knows there's a job to do. He's probably the first to say that there are areas we can improve in and areas that he can improve in. Robbie has been really good off the field, he's probably become a lot more professional over the last month or so and it's really helping his footy out."
Green was also full of praise for the 24-year-old, particularly for his attitude in defence after having a tough night against Manly back in Round 7.
"Robbie was outstanding tonight. Probably the first time we met Manly earlier in the year I think defensively they probably targeted Robbie but I thought he was outstanding tonight on both sides of the footy," Green said.
"His kicking game was spot on and nice to see him take the line on and get a try there and defensively he was good also so really happy for Robbie."