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Disappointed North Queensland Cowboys.

Coach Todd Payten believes North Queensland must get out of their own way to recapture winning form.

The Cowboys had surged into the top eight but, having lost three matches since the bye in round 13, they're now back in 10th spot with tough clashes against the Rabbitohs, Roosters and Storm next up.

Payten, who had to self-isolate and miss last weekend's 38-0 loss to Newcastle because he was deemed a close contact of a COVID case, was cleared on Tuesday morning and returned to training.

And after watching that match from his room, "swearing and stuff" throughout it, he has identified what needs to change.

"It wasn't our best performance and our last two have been similar in the way that we're losing and putting ourselves under pressure, which was a common theme in that first month, five weeks," he said.

"And then releasing pressure on the opposition with penalties and ruck infringements and letting them get out of their own end far too easy.

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"We've put our players under pressure for the last two weeks at training. Training is definitely not our problem. It's when we either get punched in the face or we punch ourselves in the face and how we handle that with our actions.

"They've been saying the right things, but in the end, it's about getting your job done. I don't think we've done that well enough and some individuals have to take some accountability for that. Our last three performances were well below par."

Despite failing to score against the Knights, Payten isn't overly concerned about his team's ability with the ball.

North Queensland haven't won since Tom Dearden arrived from the Broncos and took over at halfback from Jake Clifford, who joined Newcastle and helped put his old team to the sword.

But Payten defended Dearden and said the side's recent output isn't linked to any teething problems with the 20-year-old adapting to a new system and culture.

"We did 208 tackles in the first 30 minutes of the game on the weekend and we only had the ball inside the opposition's 20-metre zone for two plays in that first half," Payten said.

"If you make 400-plus tackles a game, you're not going to win. We did over half of that in 30 minutes. It's cyclical, there are some other little areas we can improve. I think our kicking can improve.

"We haven't had enough opportunities down the right end of the park early in the match. We've been chasing the game for the past two rounds."

He said of Dearden: "I think he's going well. He's making his tackles. Some of his decisions around his kicking can improve but he's talking us around the park and he's getting his job done.

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"He's not coming up with any errors. I can understand the question, but players slide in and out of teams pretty well from club to club.

"Everyone's playing very similar, so in terms of [having a new halfback] being a disruption - no it's not, because it happens quite regularly nowadays."

Meanwhile, there was Origin III excitement and heartbreak for the Cowboys with Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow chosen to debut at centre for Queensland but winger Kyle Feldt being dropped by the Maroons.

Tabuai-Fidow will become the club's youngest Origin representative and Payten has no doubt the 19-year-old can handle the big stage.

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"Just seeing how much it meant it to him makes you feel really pleased for him. He's immensely talented, so I don't think the step up in speed is going to worry him," Payten said.

"It's a good story for our club because at the start of the year we had a conversation with him about playing in the centres and he's adapted really fast, he's had some good moments and he's playing the biggest game of his life.

"I'm happy for him and I'm also happy for our staff and our club that we were able to get him up to speed [as a centre] quickly."

Feldt, though, was "disappointed".

"My question [to him] was how was he going to respond? It shows in the way he trains and the way he plays. He put in a good session today," Payten said.

"It's how he responds to that disappointment that's the mark of the man and we're going to see how he goes."

South Sydney won't have Origin stars Latrell Mitchell, Damien Cook, Cameron Murray, Dane Gagai and Jai Arrow when they face North Queensland at Stadium Australia on Friday night but the visitors are still on high alert.

"They've got strike across the park in their forwards and their outside backs," Cowboys hooker Jake Granville said.

"They've still got a classy halves pairing too with [Adam] Reynolds and [Cody] Walker or Benji Marshall, however they line up.

"They've got some points in them. I think it's important that we don't shoot ourselves in the foot. If we complete and go set for set with them it'll help in stemming their attack and improving our attack also."

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