After failing to meet early season expectations and sputtering to a 6-8 win/loss record half way through 2014, Cowboys veteran Gavin Cooper feels his side is in much better shape for a quick start to their 2015 NRL Telstra Premiership season.
Always one of the competition's strongest post-Origin teams, the Cowboys have been notoriously slow starters, having not been above .500 by the midpoint since 2011.
Ahead of their Round 1 encounter against the Roosters, Cooper was not shy about his expectations of a fit and healthy Cowboys side as the club enters its 20th season with arguably more outside expectation than ever before.
"Last year people gave us a couple of excuses and we could have ran with a couple of them – just having a disrupted pre-season with the boys at World Cup and bringing in a new coach – but there are no excuses now, so if we don't start well, we have no one to blame bar ourselves," he said.
"I think there's always a lot of expectation in North Queensland. We give ourselves a high expectation. We hold ourselves with high standards around the place and this [season] is no different.
"From an outsider looking in, people do like the way our team looks on paper but it doesn't mean too much on paper, so hopefully we get off to a good start which is something we haven't been able to do as a club for a long while.
"I think you have just got to keep yourself in check. A lot of people out there are trying to pump your tyres up all the time, but all the boys around are pretty honest with each other and hopefully it stays that way during the year."
Talk around the Cowboys' pre-season has been centred on fitness and good trial form, including a clinical 30-10 drubbing of Gold Coast, but bookend Matt Scott says it all counts for naught until Saturday night.
"We've trained really well and trialled really well but it's all about our attitude and what we do on the field Saturday night," he said.
"So we've just got to get out there and do what we've been doing all pre-season and try to be as good as we can as early as we can.
"[The Roosters are a] massive threat, just as strong if not stronger [than last season]. [Tuivasa-Sheck] at the back is very hard to handle and I think the two back rowers in Cordner and Guerra are two of the best back rowers running around at the moment, so it's going to be a tough job for us. It's a great challenge for Round 1."