Cowboys superstar Johnathan Thurston has conceded that his team is suffering a crisis of confidence as North Queensland went down 44-22 to the Broncos on Friday night.
After falling 12-0 behind after 12 minutes the Cowboys rarely threatened to make a contest of the all-Queensland derby, trailing 32-6 at half-time to record their third consecutive defeat to start the season.
Broncos coach Wayne Bennett attempted to deflect any praise directed towards his team by suggesting that they had faced a Cowboys team that had failed to "turn up", an assessment labelled as "fair" by Cowboys coach Paul Green.
Thurston was much more emotive in his appraisal of where one of the competition fancies sits after three weeks of the Telstra Premiership, seemingly at a loss to explain how their start to the season had unravelled so quickly.
"I'd say it's shot at the moment," Thurston said of their confidence levels. "Last year we based our game on defence and we're like turnstiles there in the first three rounds. We've got a lot of work to do.
"As a team we're not working well together on both sides of the ball and that's evident tonight.
"It was a real reality check when we came up against the Roosters [in Round 1] and they dominated us and we've been dominated the last three weeks."
After two losses to start the season coach Paul Green gave the Cowboys' line-up a shake-up ahead of the Broncos clash with Lachlan Coote making his club debut at fullback and Michael Morgan shifting to five-eighth in place of Robert Lui.
Tautau Moga was also a late inclusion for Matthew Wright in the centres and although he didn't rule out further changes ahead of their Round 4 clash with the Storm, Green indicated that he would wait before tampering too much more with the make-up of the team.
"Confidence is our biggest issue at the moment," Green said. "We just need to find our game, get into a rhythm and start building off that.
"Right now is not the time to be saying whether we're going to be making changes or not but it's important pretty quickly that we find some good combinations in the team.
"I made a couple of changes last week so it probably wouldn't be the best thing to make some more changes again. But we need to be accountable and we'll look closely at the game and make some decisions around that.
"It's important pretty quickly that we find our rhythm as a team and get some confidence. Once we get our season started we'll be right. We can't just keep saying that either, we need to at some point roll up the sleeves and start making it happen."