North Queensland Cowboys coach Paul Green has conceded that his side's golden point win over Brisbane on Friday night may have come at a heavy cost but says the character they displayed in their 21-20 win will help them to overcome any adversity this season.
Any talk of a potential dud between these two great rivals was forgotten by half-time when a Michael Morgan try narrowed Brisbane's advantage to two points with the lead changing five times over 80 minutes that ended with the teams locked together at 20-all.
Like he did in the grand final 18 months ago, Cowboys superstar Johnathan Thurston stepped up to break Brisbane hearts after eight minutes of sudden death but it was the injury toll that could place his team under pressure in the coming weeks.
Winger Antonio Winterstein was forced from the field after just 13 minutes with what is believed to be a broken arm, fullback Lachlan Coote was unable to take any part in extra-time due to a calf strain, but the greatest concern of all is a knee injury to co-captain Matt Scott.
When Scott left the field 10 minutes from full-time the Cowboys were reduced to a single player on the interchange bench with the suggestion that the State of Origin and Test prop had suffered an ACL injury that has the potential to end his season.
Green said he was unable to confirm the extent of the injury until Scott has scans on Saturday but admitted that there is the potential for a downside to what he called the toughest win he has ever been involved in.
"The win has come at a cost. Until we have the scans we won't be able to confirm that but he's definitely got a knee issue," Green said of Scott's injury.
"I don't think I've ever been involved in a tougher win than what was out there tonight. I was so proud of the boys just for the effort that they showed for each other.
"You don't have a performance like that if you don't care about your teammates, and care about the jersey.
"There were so many exhausted bodies out there, guys playing out of position but they just kept turning up for each other.
"We made a really big statement tonight as a team. I know it's come at a cost but the guys made a statement tonight."
When Winterstein succumbed to his injury Ethan Lowe moved from the back row to right centre where he played the entire game, Justin O'Neill swung across from right centre to left wing and substitute Coen Hess scored a power-packed try, made 39 tackles and ran for 85 metres in a 78-minute performance.
Fit players were hard to find for both sides as they faced off again after the 80-minute deadlock and Thurston compared the spirit that his side showed with that which earned them the 2015 premiership.
"I couldn't be more proud of the effort of the boys tonight," Thurston said.
"Obviously a lot of troops down, boys playing out of position and that builds confidence in the team.
"It tests your character and I couldn't be more proud of the boys.
"Along with the grand final I don't think I've had a win like that."
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Incredibly it was the second straight golden point game to start North Queensland's season and Green said that their recovery both mentally and physically will be crucial ahead of their game against the Sea Eagles in Townsville next weekend.
"It's how you get them up emotionally and how you get them up physically," said Green after the fourth golden point game in their past five clashes with the Broncos.
"Physically, two extra-time games back-to-back is obviously going to take its toll so we need to be really smart with our training this week but emotionally that builds character in our team.
"While we have got that sort of attitude about how we play we'll be in any game that we play."