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Johnathan Thurston in action against Manly at Brookvale Oval.

'Defensive standards' were all Cowboys players could talk about during the week, and that pursuit of perfection had Thursday's training session running almost an hour overtime.

North Queensland may have beaten Manly by a comfortable 16 points last time out, but that was exactly the point made by coach Paul Green this week: they were too comfortable.

Up 34-6 with 10 minutes to go the Cowboys hit the snooze button after looking like posting their biggest ever win over the Sea Eagles, letting them roll up the field and score two late tries.

During the week Green took his men to the sandpit behind the gym to work on tackling, which centre Justin O'Neill says was the treatment they deserved.

"We don't want those tries coming at the back end of game, so a bit of tackling in the pit doesn't hurt anyone," O'Neill said.

"We've been winning games, but we still haven't been getting to our goals that we want to achieve and haven't [had] that 80-minute effort.

"That's why we are in the pit doing a couple of things. We are not completely happy with our games of late, so if we can get an 80-minute performance in there, we know we are always tough to beat."


While there were some lapses in the middle, all three of Manly's tries came off the boot and it is something the Cowboys note as a key area against Melbourne's trio of classy kicking options – Cooper Cronk, Cameron Smith and Blake Green.

Winger Antonio Winterstein in particular will be in the firing line against Storm opposite Suliasi Vunivalu, who has exploded onto the NRL scene as a try-scoring machine.

Just three games into his career, the 192-centimetre Fijian is already establishing himself as an aerial threat, defusing high kicks and latching on to a Cronk chip kick for a try in last week's win over Gold Coast.

"[Vunivalu] has been going well, so I have my hands full," Winterstein said.

"He's good under the high ball, and physically too – he's a big guy – so I've got to try and cut down on his space and time with the footy.

"But we let a few soft tries in off kicks [against Manly], so that's what we touched on during our preview against [Melbourne] was their kicking game.

"We have some waking up to do, we let a few soft tries in against Manly so we needed to get in there and make up for it." 

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