They might have already helped to claim historic silverware before the NRL finals have started but North Queensland have not impressed Maroons State of Origin great Steve Renouf.
And a damning stat backs Renouf’s scepticism.
In their 20th season, the Cowboys have claimed the club championship for the first time with one round left after Brisbane had lost both grades on Thursday night.
It is another shot in the arm for North Queensland’s NRL outfit ahead of on Saturday night’s regular-season finale against Gold Coast in Townsville.
North Queensland are guaranteed third spot, equalling the club’s highest ladder position set in 2007.
The Cowboys this season also set club records for most wins in a season (16) and longest winning streak (11 straight).
But Renouf has fuelled speculation North Queensland have peaked too early ahead of the finals – and stats back him up.
North Queensland have wobbled with three losses in their past four games despite a favourable draw.
A closer look at their schedule shows they have played only five top-eight teams in their past 13 matches, losing four of them.
Regardless of the result against Gold Coast, North Queensland open their finals against second-placed Brisbane next weekend at Suncorp Stadium.
“The Cowboys haven’t excited me; everyone else has been talking them up,” Renouf told Fox Sports.
“I think they have a vulnerability.
“They look a bit more fragile (than the others).
“I think Brisbane will get them in the first match.”
There had been speculation Cowboys coach Paul Green would rest Johnathan Thurston and James Tamou ahead of the finals but he is expected to resist the temptation.
North Queensland fullback Lachlan Coote said he had to raise his game to lighten the burden on playmaker Thurston with Michael Morgan out battling an ankle injury.
“I play on the ball a lot more; there’s a lot more running involved; it’s something I haven’t done for a while.”
Coote was still unsure of when Morgan would return.
“Things are going well for him … but we don’t want to risk him (with a premature return),” he said.
North Queensland line up against a Titans outfit missing nine regulars including Manly-bound Nate Myles (thumb) and most likely Greg Bird (quad).
Coote said it was hardly a “dead rubber” for the Cowboys after their wobbly form.
“We have got a fair bit to play for. We’ve got to get our game right,” he said.
North Queensland’s under-20s team can claim the minor premiership with a win over the Titans this weekend.
NORTH QUEENSLAND V GOLD COAST KEY STATS:
* Gold Coast have conceded the most points (25.8) and tries (4.5) per game this season while conceding the equal second most linebreaks (5.7 per game) and missing the second most tackles (31.8pg)
* The Titans have also committed the most errors (12.7pg), have the competition’s worst completion rate (70.4 per cent) and concede equal most penalties (7.7pg)
* North Queensland have made the most run metres of any team in 2015, averaging 1580 per game and have lost seven of their eight games in 2015 when they have made less than 1500m