Cowboys back-rower Jason Taumalolo.

Cowboys' next challenge: Get job done without Taumalolo

The last-placed Cowboys already faced a tough road trip to face Cronulla but they'll be 286 run metres worse off with superstar lock Jason Taumalolo sitting the week out due to his suspension.

Taumalolo last week led the North Queensland pack to their best performance of the year, with his mammoth yardage gain against Brisbane supported by season-best efforts from Jordan McLean (195m) and Matt Scott (182m).  

McLean and Scott are backing the rest of the team to lift another gear without Taumalolo against a Sharks team fresh from a gutsy win over the Storm in Melbourne.

"I don't think the onus is just on us [forwards]," McLean said. "The whole team needs to step up, we need to be at our best to give the Sharks a decent crack.

"It's a huge loss in our team, he does a lot of work and he definitely gets the team rolling forward so the onus is going to be on the whole forward pack."

Cowboys prop Jordan McLean.
Cowboys prop Jordan McLean. ©Scott Davis/NRL Photos

Scott said Taumalolo was irreplaceable but took positives from the fact the Cowboys had matched it with a star-studded Roosters pack (in a six-point defeat) before last week's win over Brisbane.

"I'm sure everyone's going to do a job there to step up, there's not too many of us that can do what he does so it will have to be another good team performance to make up for his absence," Scott said.

"We've had a few games like that in a row now, the Roosters are obviously very strong particularly through the middle of the field.

"The Broncos and the Sharks are very similar as well, any team with Gallen, Fifita, Prior, guys like that it's a tough battle."

North Queensland and Cronulla have enjoyed a fierce rivalry in recent years with the Cowboys ending the Sharks' finals campaigns in 2015 and 2017 while being knocked out of the playoffs by eventual premiers Cronulla in 2016.

"You don't really need too much motivation to play teams that are one of the best in the competition," Scott said.

"We're trying to build some momentum and finish the year off strongly, they're trying to build momentum into the finals, I guess there is going to be a bit of motivation for both sides."