Sea Eagles v Cowboys: Five key points
North Queensland tries to put a lid on the hype despite an eighth straight victory on the road as Manly loses Cherry-Evans to injury.
Cowboys keep a lid on excitement
The Cowboys are sitting pretty at the top of the NRL ladder after their eighth straight road victory against the Sea Eagles on Monday night.
However coach Paul Green and Johnathan Thurston were trying their best to stay out of the hype surrounding their season in the immediate aftermath to the impressive victory.
"As a coach you always try to keep a lid on expectation because there's still a lot of footy to be played in this season," Green said.
"It's good that your fans and supporters can get excited about what might happen, I can't control everything that happens up there (in North Queensland).
"But amongst us as a group we know what's ahead of us, what's at stake. We're not getting too excited just yet we've got some hard work to do."
Captain Thurston echoed his coach's sentiments.
"We've got a really tough month coming up, those teams that we're coming up against are playing for their season so they're danger games for us," Thurston said.
"We've put ourselves in a good position but with that you still need to prepare really well and make sure you're turning up and doing your job."
DCE a big blow, but could be back soon
The Sea Eagles were always going to need a few things to go right for them to have a chance to upset the Cowboys on Monday night.
Daly Cherry-Evans going down with a shoulder injury late in the first half certainly wasn't part of the plan.
In the second half, the Manly attack clearly lost attacking spark in his absence.
Coach Geoff Toovey and the Sea Eagles will be hoping their star halfback can get himself right for their trip to New Zealand on the weekend.
"Look he's a really tough character," Toovey said.
"I don't think he wants to miss any football, so I'd say he'll be there [in the team] somewhere.
"Short turnaround, I don't want to get too far ahead of myself but he's a tough character and I'm pretty sure he'll do whatever he can to be there."
Manly have a tough road ahead
After losing a crucial home game the Sea Eagles' chances of making the finals have now blown out.
But Geoff Toovey certainly isn't giving up hope.
"It just means one extra game we've got to win away," he said.
"We've got a really short turnaround over in New Zealand now on Saturday.
"It's going to be very physical over there obviously, they're a better team there at home as well so it's going to be very tough and as I mentioned we've lost one at home so we've got to win the extra one away.
"It's an extra close competition which we all know and I'm pretty confident that we've got a team that can get there but we have to produce every week."
JT feeling as fresh as ever come crunch time
After being given a week off while his teammates faced the Sharks in Round 17, and then enjoying a bye with the Cowboys last week, Thurston is feeling fighting fit ahead of the crucial final weeks of the competition.
"Very fresh, especially mentally," Thurston said.
"It's a tough period in the middle of the season so to be able to have that break, [I] got the week off not playing against the Sharks. So the body physically and mentally feels good.
"It's an exciting time for us the back end of this year coming into the finals but we know we've got a lot of work ahead of us."
Thurston was also asked if he was in career-best form, but refused to focus on his own individual game.
"I've got to take my hat off to the boys that around me," he said.
Morgan benefits from Origin experience
Origin was a tough period for Paul Green and the Cowboys, considering they were forced to be without so many of their big name stars.
However Green can now see the positives of that period coming through in his team, most notably through the form of Michael Morgan who starred on Monday night.
"That's what Origin does," Green said.
"Us coaches whinge about it – losing your players for Origin – but the payback is that your players come back usually better players and I think Morgo's hopefully a great example of that.
"He needs to take that confidence and what he's learned at that level and make sure he's bringing it back to what we do back at the Cowboys and I think tonight he showed some of that."