Sea Eagles coach Trent Barrett is bracing for his side's biggest challenge of the year when they host the North Queensland Cowboys on Saturday night.
The defending premiers have picked up from where they left off in 2015 to sit just one win behind competition leaders the Broncos after eight rounds of the NRL Telstra Premiership.
Barrett's men are a further four points back in eighth spot on the ladder and the rookie coach knows his understrength side will need to be faultless to compete with a team that he claims are a "threat all over the park."
"They're the premiers, they're playing exceptional footy and we're going to have to be at our best to beat them," Barrett said.
"I don't think there really are any [weaknesses in their team]. Particularly with the football they're a dangerous side and Thurston is a threat all over the park, Morgan on the right and Coote on the left. You've got to be on your toes everywhere and we understand that.
"I think the key is to keep the ball off them and handle their middles. It's going to be a huge effort for us. We've got them at home which is a huge positive and we're just going to have to do everything we can to win."
With four North Queensland players picked to represent Australia in the Anzac Test on May 6, Barrett had hoped his coaching counterpart Paul Green would spring some selection surprises leading into the Round 9 clash.
"I was hoping they were going to rest them (Johnathan Thurston, Matt Scott, James Tamou and Michael Morgan), that would have been good," a relaxed Barrett quipped.
"They're professionals…they’ve been in this position before. I certainly don't expect them to be any different to what they have been."
Despite heading into Saturday night's game undermanned, the Sea Eagles still have plenty to play for with club legend Jamie Lyon set to hang up the boots at season's end.
Barrett revealed the club had been in talks with the 34-year-old centre about possibly playing on beyond 2016, but could understand why the two-time premiership winning Sea Eagle had decided to call quits on what has been a glittering career.
"We did give him the option. But it's a decision that I think needs to come from the player," Lyon's former NSW Blues teammate said.
"We'd talked about it for a while – I think he probably could have – but he's made that decision now and I'm really happy for him. He's got a young family who he can spend some more time with next year but he's got some work to do here first.
"I think Jamie was relieved to get the decision out of the road. We've been talking about it for a while. It gives 'Killer' a chance to enjoy the last 20-odd weeks of footy."
Barrett said Wednesday's sudden announcement had caught some of the playing group by surprise, and hopes Lyon's impending departure will inspire the rest of the team to send their skipper out in style.
"A few of them were quite shocked," Lyon's coach said.
"I think we need to send him out in the fashion that he deserves. He's been a champion player. He's a great of this club and will go down as one of the best centres of his generation.
"He's held in really high regard amongst the players; not just as a footballer but as a person. It's pretty hard to find someone to say a bad word about Jamie Lyon."