Get set for another Cowboys-Broncos classic, says Green
FORGET Brisbane's forgettable meltdown against Parramatta last weekend, Thursday night is going to be another chapter in an epic and storied Cowboys and Broncos rivalry.
That's the call from Cowboys coach Paul Green ahead of his team's showdown against the Broncos at 1300SMILES Stadium, which comes with the guarantee of finals football should North Queensland get over the line.
But Green is not even thinking ahead to finals, which North Queensland could still play even if they lose - as long as other results go their way.
The Cowboys have named an unchanged team from the one that beat the Wests Tigers 22-14 in Campbelltown last week.
"We haven't spoken about it. Nothing really changes for us and it doesn't mean we prepare any differently," Green said.
"I'm not too fazed about it.
"I'm not worried about finals, I'm worried about Thursday night."
The Cowboys last hosted the Broncos in week one of last year's finals, producing another extra-time thriller that resulted in a 26-20 victory courtesy of a Michael Morgan try.
Earlier this year the Cowboys fought through adversity to score a 21-20 extra-time win when co-captain Johnathan Thurston booted the winning field goal, but Thurston will miss the Queensland derby through injury.
In fact the team that faced Brisbane in round two is now without Matt Scott, Justin O'Neill and Patrick Kaufusi following an injury-ravaged season that may have turned a corner with last week's win over the Tigers.
Cowboys fullback Lachlan Coote, stand-in skipper Gavin Cooper and experienced winger Antonio Winterstein all made their returns from injury, while Kyle Feldt jettisoned his demons with a two-try haul to put North Queensland one foot into finals.
"It (the Tigers game) will give us confidence I think," Green said.
"We were a little bit tight, a little bit nervous at the start, and a few of the guys hadn't played for a while and there was that level of unfamiliarity I suppose just being back to the team.
"So hopefully we get straight into our game on the weekend.
"(The same team) gives us a chance to prepare a little smoother; combinations are the first thing and it's one less thing coaching staff have to think about."
Green said the return of Coote and Winterstein could not be underestimated.
"Playing against good teams - any team for that matter - having your most experienced guys out there helps, particularly when you get under pressure in different times in games," he said.
"That's invariably going to happen in any game, so it's great to have them back
"It's about them doing their job and that's what it's always been about for us.
"They got experience, they've been through big games, they've been through the tight contests and they know what to do."
The Broncos arrive in Townsville on Wednesday on a chartered flight, after last week's 52-34 thumping by Parramatta.
Green has no doubts that Wayne Bennett's men will put that shock performance behind them.
"It was a little bit out of character, but both teams probably bring out best in each other, so I'm sure we'll have another good contest on Thursday night," he said.
"There's fair bit of mutual respect there, a lot of guys played together at rep level.
"Both teams play a pretty good brand of footy, it's fairly open and they're generally pretty good spectacles, so the spectators get plenty of value for their money.