Improved Cowboys already a success: Hall
It is just the first week of finals, but Cowboys veteran Glenn Hall has already labelled 2014 a successful year for the club regardless of the result in their do-or-die clash against Brisbane this Saturday.
On the back of seven wins from their past eight games and an 11-1 home record this season, the Cowboys come in to Saturday's game with an air of expectancy, yet the pressure is curbed somewhat after already having achieved enough to check off this season as largely a success, says Hall.
Asked whether a loss this Saturday would be a step back for the club considering they have made the finals in the previous three straight years, he said confidently: "We are not [going to lose] to start with."
"No I don't think it's going to be a step back. It's been a terrific year, but we're not thinking like that. We're thinking positive and we're going to take this week as it comes and prepare the best we can."
Hall's back-row partner Tariq Sims has also noted the radical evolution his side has taken in such a short space of time, saying the improvements have mainly come from specialist instruction from coaching staff, including former Cowboy and Queensland Maroon Dallas Johnson.
"Probably our defence [is the main improvement]. Dave Furner and Dallas Johnson have definitely been working around the clock to help with that. It's about having pride in our own line," Sims said.
Sims also says the positive culture around the club has turned many negative situations into positives in 2014, including the looming departure of himself and older brother Ashton.
"Obviously I want to leave the club on a high note and reward the fans because they have been such loyal fans over the years that I've been here, and I'd love to help be part of a team that goes to a grand final and ends up winning it," he said.
According to the younger sibling, Ashton has been one of North Queensland's real success stories as a result of the culture change, which Tariq says is then a personal motivator for himself.
"He definitely has [gone to another level]. He's definitely playing some of the best footy of his career I think, personally. It might just be because he's my brother but he's playing some really good football. At the moment he's holding Jimmy Tamou out [of the starting side] and he's an Australian front-rower.
"I don't know if he does [feed off me], but I do [feed off him], definitely. He's got a bit of an agro streak in him and I sort of try to leave that with him because it's sort of tiring watching him warm up and train.
"He definitely takes it to the fullest. But look, I just love every minute that I'm out there. I'm lucky to be doing what I love, playing football and to do it with my mates and my brother is unbelievable."
Between making the most out of bad situations and developing the likes of young stars Michael Morgan, Jason Taumalolo, Robert Lui and Kyle Feldt, there is no doubt the club has achieved a lot in the space of six months. The prophecy is far from fulfilled, however, and with the likes of rookie coach Paul Green, aging superstar Johnathan Thurston and tireless worker Matt Scott leading the charge, there is no shortage of motivation for the men up north to give the Telstra Premiership a real shake this year.