Canberra can derail North Queensland’s bid for a top-two NRL finish with an upset win in Townsville on Saturday night, says Raiders great Alan Tongue.
Tongue was part of the last Raiders team to taste victory in the north back in 2006, but it has been nine long years since the Green Machine has been able to topple the Cowboys at home.
With the Cowboys running hot this year, it’s likely North Queensland will extend that drought to a decade, but Tongue believes Canberra are more than capable of causing a boilover as they continue their march towards the finals.
The Raiders are two points outside the top eight and have a much stronger points differential than seventh-placed Canterbury and the eighth-placed Warriors, leaving them perfectly poised for a finals assault.
And they came within seconds of beating North Queensland earlier in the year, only for a Johnathan Thurston field goal at the death to seal what was, in Tongue’s eyes, an undeserving win at GIO Stadium.
“I can really see the boys lifting and going really, really well,” Tongue told the club’s website.
“They know their season is on a knife’s edge. They’re playing such a great, attacking style of footy and I think they should have beaten the Cowboys down here.
“It was a heartbreaking loss so there will be plenty of motivation there.
“They’re playing for each other with great effort and enthusiasm and I think they’ll do that again.”
The Raiders, in Townsville since Thursday, have prepared for the heat and humidity of the tropics by training in beanies, hoodies and compression gear.
Cowboys back-rower Gavin Cooper said he was expecting retribution from Canberra for their nailbiting 21-20 loss in the capital earlier this year.
“We only snuck away with it down there through a little bit of brilliance from one of our more-decent players,” he said.
“I know they’re up here pretty early, trying to get used to the heat. We’ve just got to play our game like we did in those last 15 minutes.”
Saturday’s match marks the start of a difficult run home for the Cowboys, which could ruin the chances of an all-Queensland grand final.
After this week, North Queensland take on Cronulla (away), South Sydney (home), the Warriors (away) and Melbourne (away) – all current top-four teams.
Their only respite comes in the final round, with a home clash against potential wooden spooners Gold Coast.