Reigning Dally M Player of the Year Jason Taumalolo believes the Cowboys have the depth to cover for the loss of prop Matt Scott as he prepares to fight a potential suspension for a shoulder charge against the Broncos last Friday.
Taumalolo and Scott will both contest the charges levelled at them by the match review committee with Scott's possible suspension somewhat irrelevant given confirmation on Monday that he has suffered a season-ending ACL injury.
Taumalolo's grade one charge for his tackle on Alex Glenn in the 26th minute brings with it a base penalty of 200 points and by pleading not guilty he risks spending two weeks on the sideline rather than one by taking the early guilty plea.
With James Tamou and Ben Hannant no longer at the club the loss of Scott threatens to bring North Queensland's premiership aspirations unstuck after just two weeks but Taumalolo is confident the youngsters in the squad can help fill the void.
Coen Hess starred when he came on after just 13 minutes against the Broncos, Patrick Kaufusi contributed 28 tackles and 76 metres in 46 minutes while Braden Uele (Mackay) and Corey Jensen and Sam Hoare (both Townsville) made good contributions in their teams' Intrust Super Cup wins on the weekend.
The Cowboys also have former Raider Shaun Fensom waiting in the wings and Taumalolo conceded that the young forwards will need to learn fast in order to replace someone of Scott's stature.
"If 'Thumper' (Scott) is out for a while he will definitely be a huge loss for the team," Taumalolo said.
"His go-forward and leadership is what drives the team.
"I have faith with all the younger boys who were on the bench.
"There were times where they were put through their paces, but I definitely think moments like [the Broncos game] help them with their progression later in their careers and later on in the year.
"There will be a few tough moments for those young guys coming through but I'm confident they will definitely step up."
Cowboys hooker Jake Granville has played 49 of his 55 games for the Cowboys with Scott by his side and admitted that it places a greater sense of responsibility on the other forwards in the club.
"We've got a lot of depth at the club and a lot of young fellas stepping up and are capable of being able to fill those positions," Granville told NRL.com.
Having lost six games by six points or less last season – including two by a single point – Granville believes that the spirit in the squad in 2017 has helped them to snare four competition points in two golden point games to start the season.
Coach Paul Green spoke after the Broncos game about the pride he had for their performance in such a physically demanding game and Granville says they are an even closer-knit unit than that which won the Telstra Premiership in 2015.
"Three years we've been together so all the boys are pretty close so it's good to come away with victories like that," Granville said.
"Last year we weren't winning those sort of tight games so we've started off with two golden points and two wins.
"It's good to get away with a win in those sorts of games."