Cowboys mentor Paul Green has paid Melbourne counterpart Craig Bellamy and his side the ultimate compliment on the eve of their showdown at AAMI Park on Saturday.
Rarely is Green seen to provide opinion toward an opponent, but he stepped out of character in the lead up, saying that the Cowboys are seeking to adopt the kind of work ethic that has made the Storm one of the league's best over the past decade.
With the exception of their controversial 2010 season, sixth place is the lowest Melbourne have finished by the end of the regular season since 2002.
The Cowboys (16-6) are having their best season in club history, yet it has been anything but smooth sailing for Green's men who are still searching for answers to the slow starts that have plagued them all year.
"I think a lot of teams probably aspire to be like Melbourne have been consistently and over a long period of time," he said.
"It's a credit to them but we are also hoping to be that team as well.
"They're well coached and well drilled, everyone knows their role in the team and they compete well.
"If you ask about Melbourne teams in the past, that's something that they're always consistent with."
Be it a good measuring stick for one of the most professional teams the NRL has seen or the chance to knock off a side that may also challenge at the pointy end of the year, North Queensland has had eyes on this match-up for a long time coming.
"I'm really looking forward to it, I've had this one marked on the calendar for a while," Green said.
"We've still got two weeks to go until the bigger games so we've still got a chance to work on [deficiencies].
"I reckon [Saturday] will be really important for both teams."
Always an argument at this time of year is whether a team is best served entering the finals with an easy run or a stern test to whip them into shape.
For less-turbulent sides a light run may be just the thing to keep them fresh, but Green says Melbourne's challenge will do his team good in preparation for playoffs intensity.
"I don't want an easy win at this stage either, we need a good hard game to prepare ourselves for what's ahead of us," he said.
"I hope they're at their best and I hope we're at our best. Everyone's got plenty to play for."
In late mail, winger Matthew Wright has travelled with the team and is listed as 18th man, however Green has not ruled out his elevation into the playing side.