Finals raw nerve still pains Cowboys

Cowboys veterans Johnathan Thurston and Gavin Cooper have expressed their disappointment in falling short where they should have previously succeeded –including a Week 1 Finals exit at the hands of the Sharks in 2013 – but both feel 2014 holds something special for the club.

Scraping into finals the past four years, advancing further has always proved an uphill battle for North Queensland from the very start. As is the case most years, a late run has brought them into finals contention, but only once have they run all the way to a top four finish – in 2007.

While late-season runs bring good form in to September, this ‘backs against the wall’ situation the Cowboys always find themselves in has gotten the better of the club in recent years – and it has struck a nerve with all involved.

“It’s disappointing when you don’t make it further than what you believe you should have but for us it’s taking it in our own hands and destiny is in our own hands in that matter,” Thurston said on Wednesday.

“I believe (there is a different feel about the club than previously). Everyone’s a lot more clear on their role within the team so I think we are better placed this time than we were the last two times we’ve come into the finals. The boys are a bit more experienced now, a bit older so they know what it takes to win finals games.”

With Cooper adding: “I think the second week in the finals is as deep as I’ve been and it’s something that, from a personal level, I’d like to right. But I can’t do it all and as individuals we can’t do it all so it’s going to be a massive team effort of Friday night.”

And their (not-so) secret weapon – the left-hand side of the ruck, which will likely be targeted more after a spanner was thrown in the works of their right edge with the suspension of Tariq Sims.

The left side – featuring the likes of Thurston, Cooper and former Chooks Kane Linnett and Antonio Winterstein – has been a meal ticket for the Cowboys in the past five weeks, sourcing around 70 per cent of tries from that direction.

“I don’t think we target (that edge) or anything like that, it just opens up there for us and the most pleasing thing about it is defensively we have been pretty strong there the last couple weeks since he’s been back so we will need to be very strong,” Cooper said.

“They have Kenny-Dowall on our side and Mitchell Pearce who loves to run the ball and SBW who can offload before the line or through the line, so no doubt it’s a big job for us on the left edge. They’ll be throwing plenty of attack down our way and I know the boys are looking forward to the challenge.”

North Queensland will fly out to Sydney early Thursday afternoon, with a South Sydney bruise-fest awaiting Friday night’s winner.