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Cowboys’ blueprint shaped on Storm of old

There are certain similarities between North Queensland and their opposition on Saturday night as Todd Payten’s side hunt for their biggest scalp of their 2022 campaign.

High percentage completions, tenacious tackling, kicking deep into corners and forcing errors out of their opposition was the blue print of Melbourne’s dominance in the NRL over the past decade.

The Cowboys are completing at 80 per cent, with the lowest missed tackles and errors in the competition this season.

Marquee signing Chad Townsend, who sits fifth in the NRL for kicks and is pivotal to their own-half pressure relief, is also tied second in the competition for try assists.

But from a coaching perspective, Payten has hammered down the message of playing the game “the right way” as his side sits third on the ladder.

He admits that style was brought about by Melbourne and his players had bought in to that blend of play.

“The players are starting to believe it’s achievable and they’re starting to believe our message,” he said on Friday.

“I’m really excited about what we’re doing and what we’re up against tomorrow.

“But more so proud of the brand of football that we’re playing …we’re going to have to do that for longer than we have done at any stage throughout the season.”

The Cowboys are unchanged from Sunday’s comfortable win over Wests Tigers in Magic round, with the same 17 starting for the fourth consecutive week.

They’re also looking to end a loss-streak against the Storm spanning back to the 2015 preliminary final.

Knowing how dangerous Melbourne are with their attacking shape, Payten said their reserves had been immaculate in their preparation for Saturday’s clash.

“We’re in a fortunate position against other clubs, we’ve got at least 26 training each week,” he said.

“Our second team, or Renegades as we call it, have done a great job of preparing the main squad.

“We’ve replicated some of their (Melbourne’s) shapes … so we’ve got a plan and then when things are going against us we need to fight and scramble. So it’s a pretty simple message.”

Meanwhile, star Storm halfback Jahrome Hughes is in danger of missing a second successive match due to his calf injury.

Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy is concerned about his slow recovery which had limited his training this week while they have been based on the Sunshine Coast.

Cooper Johns started at No.7 in their heavy loss to the Panthers last round.

“He probably hasn’t recovered as quickly as we would have liked,” Bellamy said on Friday.

“We thought he would have been training earlier in the week after missing the weekend but he’s done a little bit of running today so we will see how he pulls up from that.”

While his halves remain under a cloud, Bellamy said he was a fan of exciting young Cowboys playmaker Tom Dearden.

“I love the way he plays,” he said of the 21-year-old.

“He just looks like he’s not scared of anything and if he wants to take the line on he will and he gives the team what they need.

“I’m not quite sure I’m going to enjoy too much of watching him on Saturday night.”

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