Reigning premiers North Queensland are bracing for a physical barrage from Cronulla when they meet at Shark Park on Monday week.
The Cowboys dispatched Newcastle 46-16 in Townsville on Saturday night and their focus has quickly turned to Cronulla who have surprised most pundits this season to lead the competition going into round 13.
Cowboys skipper Johnathan Thurston was full of praise for the Sharks, who have shaped themselves into the competition’s best attacking team due to the influence of halves James Maloney and Chad Townsend in 2016.
And while the Sharks playmakers have added another string to their bow, Thurston said it was the side’s physicality that made them so daunting after intimidating sides out of the contest this year.
“They try to bash you up but also they play tough, hard, grinding footy,” Thurston said.
“They’ve added a few players that they can attack from now which they’ve lacked in the past and they’re scoring points.
“They’ve got strike power all over the park and when their forwards are laying a platform for them, Jimmy is playing off the back of that with (Ben Barba) and co.”
The Cowboys got the better of the Sharks in their first-round encounter in Townsville but since then Shane Flanagan’s men have arguably been the form team of the competition, winning their past eight games.
“They’ll be full of confidence,” Cowboys coach Paul Green said after North Queensland surged past the Knights.
“You saw how they played against the Broncos down there and they probably see us as another scalp next Monday night.”
Melbourne bumped Cronulla from top spot on the ladder with their win over Penrith on Saturday but the Sharks have a chance reclaim the competition lead against Canterbury at ANZ Stadium on Monday night.