North Queensland know they can get one back on their 2005 NRL grand final nemesis Wests Tigers by knocking them back into the dog fight for eighth place with victory in Townsville on Monday night.
What will motivate them more however will be the opportunity presented to them by Canberra’s upset win over Cronulla on Sunday.
The two points would enable the Cowboys to leapfrog the Sharks and Brisbane into the top four, and Sunday’s result was exactly what coach Neil Henry and his players wanted ahead of what shapes as a marquee Monday night clash.
With Melbourne losing a fourth game in as many weeks in another upset at the hands of Parramatta, the minor premiership is once again up for grabs.
The high stakes scenario is certain to bring the very best out of big-match players from both sides with the Cowboys riding on the back of in-form five-eighth Johnathan Thurston and fullback Matt Bowen.
The Tigers will be turning to their brilliant and unpredictable champion Benji Marshall and creative hooker Robbie Farah for the big plays.
Henry played down talk of a bitter rivalry between the 2005 grand finalists but admitted the Tigers had had the wood on the Cowboys in recent years.
“The media beats up the rivalry. Our games haven’t been overly fiery,” he said Henry.
“There’s a rivalry there because I think they’ve won the last five games and eight of the last 10 against us.
“It’s certainly time for us to get a win at home and it’s a crucial game for both clubs really vying for that top eight if not top four position.”
Much will hinge on the battle up front with the Tigers boosted by the returns of Kiwi international Adam Blair and classy Englishman Gareth Ellis to combat the go-forward games of Cowboys’ representative props James Tamou and Matt Scott.
“James has come back from Origin a far more confident player,” said Henry.
“JT (Thurston) is in a great frame of mind, Matty Bowen’s in good form and Brent Tate has made a big difference to us this season.
“We need those guys to be playing well to win the big games.”
Henry said his players would require the same defensive mindset that shut down the Storm in Melbourne last weekend with the Tigers side playing a style of football that causes them a lot of problems.
“You never know what Tim Sheens (Tigers coach) might toss up to hurt us,” he said.
“We need to have confidence and trust in our defensive line to shut down whatever they throw at us.”
Henry said Farah had taken his game to another level during the Origin series.
“He’s a good player, the mainstay of their team.
“He had a wonderful State of Origin series, taking his game to another level.”