What NRL finals conspiracy?
North Queensland are determined not to fall victim to their playoff jinx again ahead of Saturday night’s knockout semi-final clash with Cronulla in Townsville.
Cowboys co-captain Johnathan Thurston said they only had themselves to blame for their unlucky recent finals run and hoped to turn the tide against the Sharks in their must-win semi.
“Hopefully, we don’t put ourselves in that situation again,” said Thurston.
“We only have ourselves to blame in that area in the past.
“We know destiny is in our own hands.”
North Queensland have made the finals for the fifth straight year.
But they have had an ill-fated recent on-field run which began when Manly scored off a Kieran Foran knock-on in their 22-12 2012 semi-finals loss.
In 2013, Cronulla scored a seventh-tackle try to down North Queensland 20-18 in the finals’ first weekend.
And last year, the Cowboys looked to have sealed a match-winning try before a contentious knock-on was called in their 31-30 semi-final loss to the Sydney Roosters.
In their 20th season, it has been made glaringly obvious that North Queensland have only qualified for one grand final – back in 2005.
But Thurston appeared to embrace the underdog tag this year, saying Cronulla were the team to beat.
“I can’t see why they would (be daunted by travelling to Townsville),” he said.
“They have beaten us twice this year; they have beaten top-eight teams throughout the season.
“They are probably the form team of the competition.
“Why would they fear coming up here?”
Cowboys co-captain Matt Scott hoped to not get preoccupied by yet another questionable finals exit last year.
“We have put the blame squarely on our shoulders,” he said.
“If we do get into those tight contests, we won’t let one bad call wreck our focus.”
Meanwhile, Cowboys CEO Greg Tonner can’t wait for North Queensland to show their true colours on Saturday night.
“We have been going for many years but we have only had four home finals,” Tonner said.
“These are rare. We need to show Australia we can go all the way.
“They can expect colour, noise – this is what the season is all about.”
Scott admitted he was concerned Cronulla were the only team to have beaten North Queensland twice this year.
“It is disappointing that they have beaten us twice – it’s a bit of a worry, too,” he said.
“Now we have lost to Brisbane (16-12 qualifying final last weekend), we have to do it the hard way – it’s probably a blessing in disguise.”