Cowboys coach Paul Green has conceded that the club "probably won't keep everyone" from their 2015 premiership side as contract season enters full swing across the NRL.
After recently extending fullback Lachlan Coote's deal until the end of 2018, the Cowboys have shifted focus to retaining representative front-rower James Tamou, who was linked in a mid-season move to Canberra this time last year.
As only one of two big-name props coming off contract Tamou is receiving interest from southern clubs, which are looking to drag him away from the north after eight years and over 150 games.
While the Cowboys have a fight on their hands in keeping the star bookend, they have been dealt a further blow with under-20s star Kalyn Ponga formally rejecting a contract extension.
"We'd like to keep everyone and we are trying our best to do that, but the reality is that we probably won't keep everyone," Green said on Tuesday.
"Whether or not that's 'Jimmy' (Tamou) or whether it's someone else, it is part of the process."
Despite unwavering contract attention surrounding the club over the past two months, the team has not skipped a beat on their way to five straight wins, including strong performances from Tamou.
"I think our players are doing a really good job of not letting it distract them," Green said.
"They haven't let any of that affect how we've played as a team, which is what I want to see. It shows to me that they value the team, while all of that stuff is going on."
In positive news, hooker Ray Thompson will make a long-awaited return from a fractured ankle sustained in the lead-up to the Indigenous All Stars-World All Stars clash in February.
Thompson will run on for the Townsville Blackhawks when they host the CQ Capras on Saturday afternoon.
"[Thompson] always plays a key role throughout that [Origin] period," Green said.
"So hopefully he can get some match fitness under his belt over the next couple of weeks and get some confidence. He will figure during that Origin period for us, so it's good timing.
"He has been out for quite a while; it was a fairly significant injury that he has recovered from. But he's done well, as we expected him to do.
"He's a true professional, Ray, he's done everything he needed to do and I think for him he's glad to be out of the rehab group and out playing footy."
The Cowboys have named an unchanged team for their Suncorp Stadium clash with the Storm on Friday.