No more blame game for Cowboys
Three-straight controversial finals exits could easily play havoc with the Cowboys' minds in their semi-final against Cronulla, but the culture of accountability introduced by coach Paul Green last year, and nurtured this year, is something of a mental safeguard for North Queensland.
Green's message of being fully responsible for results is something that has strengthened the Cowboys' resolve, which has proven solid time and time again in crunch moments this year.
In 2014 the Cowboys were 3-7 in games separated by six points or fewer, while this year they have won six of their nine games in the same situation.
That mentality will be a much-needed ingredient to combat Cronulla, who felled the Cowboys in the first round of finals in 2013 thanks to the infamous seven-tackle try to Beau Ryan.
The costly error from the referees was preceded by a Kieran Foran knock-on in the Cowboys' 2012 finals ousting, while in 2014 supporters were again up in arms over a Robert Lui knock-on in the dying minute which brought about a Johnathan Thurston try.
But after three contentious exits in a row, Thurston's co-captain Matt Scott has put excuses aside for this Saturday, saying the result will simply be a product of their performance, regardless of officials' calls.
"We've put ourselves in those situations. You've got to take a bit of responsibility for that," Scott said.
"I'd like to think we're playing a lot better footy now. If we do get in to those tight contests and tight situations then we don't let one bad call wreck it for us.
"Every time that this has happened we've talked about it after the game and we've out the blame squarely on our shoulders.
"We've seen mistakes happen all the time but we've got to control what we can control and we've got to play footy."
The Cowboys will be buoyed by the knowledge that they are one of the league's best both in pressure situations and toward the end of games.
With explosive players Jake Granville and Michael Morgan coming into their own late in games, Scott has confidence in emerging victorious from tense late-game situations.
"I think when the pressure is on us we tend to play our best footy," he said.
"Last year when we had to win every game coming into the finals we managed to do so. We tend to play our best footy when we're behind on the scoreboard too. It's a good sign that we can handle pressure situations.
"But we'd love to start well against the Sharks. If you give (the Sharks) opportunities like Souths did last week, they pounce on them."