Fatigue won’t be a factor for North Queensland, according to rugby league great Petero Civoniceva.
But former Maroons teammate Justin Hodges believes a tough NRL finals campaign will finally catch up with Johnathan Thurston’s Cowboys in Friday night’s preliminary final against Cronulla.
Long-serving Test prop Civoniceva brushed aside fears North Queensland would wilt against the Sharks at Allianz Stadium.
The Cowboys are coming off a 90 minute extra-time semi-final win over Brisbane at tropical Townsville.
And they line up against a Cronulla side fresh from a week off and not affected by travel.
“It will be a huge challenge no doubt how they recover,” Civoniceva told AAP.
“But their coaching staff would have been on top of it as soon as those boys came off the field.
“And they are used to the heat, they are used to the conditions.
“It was an epic game. It would have taken up a fair amount of juice in the tank but I don’t think it will take its toll.”
But Hodges was blunt when asked to assess North Queensland’s fitness.
“I think they are going to struggle,” he told Fox Sports TV.
“They had a tough first up game in Melbourne, flew all the way back for a massive game against the Broncos, and we all know how hot it was.
“Now they come against a side that has the week off, nice and fresh and ready to go.”
Time and again Thurston has stepped up to lift the Cowboys but Hodges believed the North Queensland playmaker may finally run out of gas against the Sharks.
Thurston lost 5kg battling a stomach bug and needed a halftime injection to get through the semi-final.
“We all know what he can do, you can never write him off,” Hodges said.
“But I do think this task might be too great for him because of their tough run.”
However, Civoniceva said the chance to go back to back for the first time since Brisbane (1992-93) would spur the Cowboys on.
“They are 80 minutes away from another grand final – there is a lot to play for,” he said.