Origin challenge faces NRL premiers

North Queensland’s bid to replicate their red-hot run in last year’s State of Origin period starts on Saturday.

The Cowboys claimed victory in five of their six matches during the mid-season Origin campaign last season, before eventually going on to win their maiden NRL premiership.

That was despite representative stars Johnathan Thurston, Michael Morgan, James Tamou and Matt Scott coming and going from the lineup.

This year that same quartet are back in the Queensland and NSW sides along with winger Justin O’Neill while Gavin Cooper was a late addition to the Maroons squad as cover for Wednesday night’s opener in Sydney.

Back-rower Ethan Lowe says that run last year played a big role in developing the belief in their depth which drove the Cowboys to the grand final.

Lowe is hopeful the same form can keep the club’s premiership defence on track.

“It definitely was pretty important to us last year,” Lowe told AAP.

“It definitely puts you in a lot better position for the run to the end of the season.”

The Cowboys host bottom-placed Newcastle this Saturday.

All of their Origin stars could play against the Knights but Lowe says there’s a challenge preparing for a game when it’s unclear just what your lineup will be.

“This week’s going to be tough because we’ve got to prepare for situations, depending on what happens in game one,” he said.

“You’ve got to be prepared for all the different ways it can go. It’s definitely going to be a challenge.”

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