Cowboys lock Jason Taumalolo will be front and centre when North Queensland face the Storm in Melbourne on Friday night despite nursing a painful foot injury which has troubled him for the past five weeks.
Cowboys assistant coach David Fairleigh praised Taumalolo's efforts, describing him as humble and tough.
“To be playing with the injury that he's playing with and his pain threshold is a lot higher than most other players," said Fairleigh.
"The last couple of weeks Jase has pretty much only been able to have a run on the last training session of each week.
“It’s not ideal, but it just shows you the competitive nature and how much playing for the team means to him, because he could quite easily say ‘I'm not playing’ and nobody would argue with him.
“I’ve got a lot of respect for him for that.”
The news is not so good for young half Jake Clifford who is unlikely to play against the Storm. Reuben Cotter will travel with the team as 18th man.
“I don't think Cliffo will play," said Fairleigh. "His ankle’s still not up to the level that it needs to be to play.”
The Cowboys will make it three on the trot if they dispose of minor premiers Melbourne and finish what has been an ordinary year on a high.
Taumalolo seals the win for North Queensland
“There's been a lot of ups and downs but to get a win against Melbourne in Melbourne would certainly be a great finish,” said Fairleigh prior to leaving Townsville on Wednesday.
After being cleared of serious shoulder damage the Storm’s Cameron Munster will still sit out the round 25 clash but Fairleigh said it won’t change Melbourne's approach to the game.
“They’ll probably lose a little bit there [with Munster out] but one thing about Melbourne is that they’ve got plenty of depth and whoever comes in, they'll do a good job.
“We’ve just got to worry about ourselves playing well, executing and being consistent.”
As for Munster’s replacement, Fairleigh is expecting Brodie Croft to make a statement Friday night.
“That's always the thing, when someone goes down, a player like Brodie Croft comes in. He wants to make an impression and play well.
“We've played against him in the past, we’ve seen how he plays. He’ll be out to do his best and we’ve got to be on our game to stop him.”