Cowboys coach Paul Green has warned the Sharks to target Lachlan Coote at their own peril when the sides meet in Friday night's preliminary final at Allianz Stadium.
The North Queensland No.1 had an uncharacteristically poor game against the Broncos, making a season-high four errors in last week's 26-20 extra-time classic.
Nothing seemed to go right for the 26-year-old as Coote threw an early forward pass, dropped a regulation bomb and fumbled a grubber that led to a soft try to Jordan Kahu just before half-time.
Despite the errors, Coote defused four kicks to take his post-season tally to 13 – easily the best in the competition – and Green said he was expecting a profound bounce-back from his usually safe-as-houses fullback.
"If they want to target Lachlan Coote with kicks, well he's probably the best positional fullback in the competition. If he's not the best then he's one of the best," Green said.
"He had an off night against Brisbane but I've got complete confidence in 'Cootey'. That's a strength of his game so if they want to target him then that'll be good. It'll bring him into the game and he'll respond the way that we want.
"He's a pretty unflappable sort of a character. He's obviously disappointed about the way he played last week and really pleased that his mistakes didn't cost us the game. He's determined to make up for it this week."
While he thought it would be fruitless to test out Coote on Friday night, Green said the Cowboys would look to target Sharks halfback Chad Townsend after he was taken off on the hour-mark of Cronulla's 16-14 win over Canberra.
The Sharks playmaker was out of sync with edge back-rower Luke Lewis in week one of the finals, and having failed to make an impact in attack, was replaced in the halves by Jack Bird.
"It's not ideal for a halfback. You never want to get hooked, so his confidence has to have taken a bit of a hit. They've gone out of their way some of their players to pump him up, so I'm sure they've worked on that," Green said.
"He's probably a guy that we can target also. You (the media) mentioned his confidence, that's sure to have taken a hit after that game. Being a halfback you don't want that to happen. He's a guy we'll probably want to look at."
Like his Cowboys counterpart, Sharks coach Shane Flanagan immediately leapt to the defence of his player, predicting that Townsend would play a starring role in the preliminary final.
"I got to him straightaway and a lot of senior players got to him straightaway," Flanagan said when describing his communication with Townsend following the Canberra game.
"He's moved on and realised what he needs to do. He was probably overthinking his game too much and you'll probably see a different Chad Townsend. He'll play his footy like he has for the first 26 rounds."