MAROONS ace Michael Morgan has warned NRL rivals to write off the Cowboys at their peril, insisting North Queensland can overcome the loss of Johnathan Thurston to win the premiership.
As the Cowboys prepare for another derby blockbuster against the Broncos on Thursday night, Morgan scoffed at suggestions the injury-ravaged Cowboys would just be making up the numbers in the playoffs.
The seventh-placed Cowboys moved a step closer to the finals with a gutsy 22-14 disposal of Wests Tigers on Friday. They will clinch a seventh consecutive finals spot if Penrith beat the Dragons today at Pepper Stadium.
The Cowboys have been dismissed by bookmakers as a title threat following a shocking injury toll that at one stage claimed 10 top-liners, including Thurston, Matt Scott and Justin O’Neill.
But the return of Gavin Cooper, Lachlan Coote, Shaun Fensom and Antonio Winterstein against the Tigers has given the Cowboys hope of clinching a second premiership in three seasons.
Morgan says the Cowboys are relishing the prospect of being finals giant-killers as they prepare to make a surge from the bottom half of the top eight.
“The way we have been competing and stayed in games, I think we can go all the way,” the Queensland Origin utility said.
“Our goal is to get (to the finals) and if we do, anyone is a chance.
“Finals games are not hard games to get up for. It’s been shown for a number of years in semi-final football, it’s one game at a time and you just have to scrap and fight.
“You need a bit of luck in the finals, but you create a bit of luck by continuing to work hard for each other. We’re doing that. Once you get in that eight, anyone is a chance so I have full confidence that if we get to the finals, we can give it a real crack.”
It is testament to North Queensland’s playing depth and culture that the Cowboys have remained in the title race, despite using a whopping 32 players this season.
North Queensland’s 2015 grand-final hero Kyle Feldt kept his side’s season alive with a two-try haul against the Tigers and he believes the Cowboys can generate momentum at the right time.
Asked if the Cowboys can win the title, Feldt said: “Yep, I think we can. Everyone in the squad really has enough belief in our systems and our players taking the field every week.
“It is showing. Unfortunately we hadn’t won the last four weeks but (against the Tigers) we showed we can dig deep and get the job done.
“We have the effort there – we can get any result we want.”
Morgan is bracing for a bruising derby in Townsville this week following Brisbane’s 52-34 hiding against the Eels.
“It’s tough playing a team that has had a big loss the week before,” he said. “They will be out to prove a point.”