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Under-fire North Queensland centre Justin O'Neill has admitted he is feeling the pressure to keep his spot in first grade in what has been a testing 2018 campaign.

O'Neill's performances have been roundly criticised in recent weeks, particularly after his dismal performance at Leichhardt Oval in the loss to the Wests Tigers in round 10.

Although the Cowboys also went down to the Rabbitohs in round 11 last Saturday, O'Neill believes, as difficult as that may be, they cannot dwell on the 20-19 result and concentrate on the fact they improved across the board.

"Last weekend the boys really played their guts outs and in the end we lost the game," O'Neill said.

"It's trying to bounce back from games like that, that can take a toll on players and it's hard sometimes to keep a positive mindset.

"You have to try and focus on some of the positives and not so much on the negatives."

For O'Neill personally, bouncing back from his performance against the Tigers was a real struggle and he braced himself for the possibility of being sent to the Intrust Super Cup to find some form.

"I think the Leichhardt game was definitely an off one for me, it was probably just a lack of focus or staying in the moment," he said.

Cowboys centre Justin O'Neill.
Cowboys centre Justin O'Neill. ©Scott Davis/NRL Photos

"I was disappointed with my own performance and I knew that whether I was in the (NRL) team or playing in the Queensland Cup, I needed to be better."

Enari Tuala and Francis Molo have been blooded in recent weeks, and have looked the part in the Telstra Premiership.

Given coach Paul Green's recent decision to drop long-term players Lachlan Coote and Ethan Lowe, the players are on notice.

"The younger players are playing some good footy,'' O'Neill said.

"They are definitely putting a lot of pressure on a lot of the players that have been there in the (NRL) squad for a while now."

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