Knights legend Danny Buderus has praised the Cowboys for doing what Newcastle were unable to ever accomplish; finding a way to win without their superstar half.
When Johnathan Thurston was ruled out for the remainder of the season in the wake of Origin II back in June many suggested that the hopes of North Queensland winning a second premiership went with him.
But showing tremendous fortitude to even qualify for the finals the Cowboys are now just one of six teams capable of claiming this year's Telstra Premiership crown, their next challenge an aggressive Eels outfit at ANZ Stadium on Saturday night.
Writing in this week's issue of Big League, Buderus hails the effort of the Cowboys to continue to have success without both Thurston and Matt Scott given what happened to the Knights when Andrew Johns was ever absent.
"I was a part of the team which included the eighth Immortal, Andrew Johns, at the Knights," Buderus writes in the Finals Week Two issue of Big League.
"Whenever he didn't play, our structures fell apart because 'Joey' was the structure and we performed based on whether he was in the team or not.
"Having no Joey in the team when we played made us all lose confidence and belief we could win when the pressure was on.
"We tried different things with our gameplans, but we lacked polish and belief in key areas – mostly in the mind.
"That's what makes North Queensland's season so impressive – their future Immortal has missed most of it and the club has actually evolved."
Few will give the Cowboys much of a hope of knocking off the Eels this week and progressing to a Preliminary Final but according to Buderus the resilience they have shown in 2017 has been part of their make-up for much of coach Paul Green's tenure.
"This fighting spirit is part of their DNA," says Buderus.
"What an amazing effort from Paul Green and his staff in creating a team, not just a squad that revolves around one or two players to get the job done.
"They have a structure that every player trusts and when one of the playmakers or leaders is out, they can fall into the system and be a part of it.
"They're not pressured to re-create anything or over-play their hand, they're just allowed to be part of the team, play their role and to bring a never-say-die attitude."
The Finals Week Two issue of Big League looks at the forwards with their team's finals fate in their hands, all the NRL, NYC and Intrust Super team lists, part one in the series of 2017 team posters, how your team will look in 2018 plus the top eight finals comebacks. On sale now at newsagents, supermarkets, at the ground and via www.magsonline.com.au/big-league.