WHY not us?
It was the catchcry that inspired the Sharks’ epic charge to their maiden premiership last season after 49 years of failure.
Now North Queensland have adopted a similar mantra as the injury ravaged Cowboys prepare to ride their luck by becoming finals giant-killers — starting against Cronulla this Sunday.
The Cowboys were getting ready for Mad Monday when the Bulldogs’ stunning upset of the Dragons gave North Queensland a stay of execution and the chance to clinch a second title in three years.
The Sharks will start raging favourites at Allianz Stadium, but Maroons ace Gavin Cooper has a message for critics who believe the Cowboys will be simply making up the numbers in this year’s playoffs.
“Why not us?” Cooper said.
“We have shown we can mix it with the teams up the top of the ladder.
“We’ve put in some good performances, but we will need our best performance of the year this week.
“If we don’t, we’ll get bounced clean out and then we would have been just making up the numbers.”
While the Cowboys must defy enormous odds to clinch another title, Parramatta’s class of 2009 are evidence an eighth-placed team can mount a playoffs surge to qualify for the grand final.
The Eels, inspired at the time by Dally M sensation Jarryd Hayne, ultimately fell at the final hurdle against the Storm, but Cooper is determined for the Cowboys to make a statement against the Sharks.
After all, North Queensland have sufficient motivation. In last year’s finals, the Sharks tore the Cowboys apart in the first half at Allianz Stadium, bolting to a 14-0 halftime lead before going on with the job to end North Queensland’s title defence.
Cooper insists this week isn’t about revenge, but displaying the courage that has seen the Cowboys qualify for a seventh consecutive finals series without big guns Johnathan Thurston and Matt Scott.
“That was 12 months ago,” Cooper said of last year’s finals exit against Cronulla.
“I really don’t think it will be spoken about, we played them only three weeks ago and they did the same thing to us (in Townsville).
“We are in sudden-death footy, but we’ve actually been playing that for a few weeks now. We know what to expect and that will be the build-up this week.
“I’m pretty happy that we are through. It’s been a very strange lead-up the last couple of days, but this is the first bit of luck I think we’ve got this year, so we’ll run with it.
“Our courage can’t be questioned … it’s special playing finals footy.
“There’s a few teams today having a beer thinking, ‘What if’. Lucky we get a chance to showcase what we can do.
“It’s going to be a big test, they weren’t the premiers last year for nothing.”