Returning troops the difference for Cowboys
North Queensland coach Paul Green had reason to get a good night's sleep after the Cowboys moved one step closer to their seventh-straight finals series with victory over the Wests Tigers on Friday night.
Admitting the club's shocking injury toll had affected his sleeping patterns in recent weeks, Green was proud of the efforts of his players who snapped a season-high four-game losing streak.
The Cowboys were boosted by the returns of experienced pair Lachlan Coote and Gavin Cooper for the contest and brushed aside a four-point deficit in the first half to score three tries at the death.
"Down at half-time and the boys found a way to win which typifies our performance the last six weeks or so," Green said.
"It was a huge effort. We played safety-first at the start but we just need to back ourselves more individually and as a team."
Cowboys winger Kyle Feldt came up with the miraculous play to beat four defenders and swoop on a Michael Morgan kick with the game on the line.
After two errors to begin the match, Green was pleased to see the winger bounce back and believes Feldt has turned a corner in the confidence department.
"He's one of the best in our team under the high ball but like anything else he overthinks it," Green said.
"If he stays out of his head he'll be right but when he starts thinking about it too much he comes up with an error.
"He's probably dwelled on it in the past which doesn't do the team any good.
"I've said to him many times we need him playing, there's nothing he can do about it.
"He did that tonight, he was good."
North Queensland have been one of the unluckiest sides of 2017 with a season-high 32 players used this season after a terrible run of injuries.
Green stopped short of declaring the Cowboys should make the finals on the back of sympathy for injuries, however.
"No one deserves to make the finals, it's a tough competition and you've got to work your butts off for a long period of time," he said.
"There's been plenty of reasons for us throughout the year to just roll over but we haven't and the players deserve a rap.
"I keep telling them it will turn for us and they're working hard. They haven't called off the fight yet so it's good to see."
After missing the past fortnight with injury himself, Cooper has seen enough resilience while on the sidelines to suggest the team won't just be there to make up the numbers in September.
Next week North Queensland face a Brisbane Broncos outfit reeling after their high-scoring loss to Parramatta on Thursday night and the local derby shapes as vital in both side's quests to finish high on the Telstra Premiership ladder.
The Cowboys will officially secure their spot in the finals should the Panthers beat St George Illawarra on Sunday.
"The boys are hanging in there," Cooper said of the Cowboys.
"There were things we could've done smarter but if you judge the game on effort the last couple of weeks we'd have two points every week.
"When we played in the second half the way we planned on playing we looked hard to handle."