After splitting results in 2021, North Queensland coach Todd Payten expects a hostile environment when the Cowboys clash with rivals Brisbane on Sunday.
Payten’s Cowboys enter the Queensland derby at Suncorp Stadium with one win from their two games this season after trouncing Canberra at home in round two.
Always eager to get a win over their big brother, Payten says his players have kept their emotions in check in the build-up.
“They’ve been pretty calm through the week, but this is also a couple of our guys’ first experience of a Queensland derby and we expect to walk into a pretty hostile environment down there in front of their home crowd,” he said.
“They’re 2-0 and pretty confident, so we know what we’re walking into.”
Both sides are sporting new halves combinations in season 2022 with the acquisition of premiership-winning experience at halfback.
Chad Townsend impressed and nabbed a try assist in the Cowboys’ 26-6 dismantling of the Raiders, while Brisbane skipper Adam Reynolds pulled the strings in their tight victory over Canterbury last weekend.
With both teams recording poor defence statistics last year the clubs have impressed in their first showings this season.
And that defensive pressure and intensity could prove the difference, Payten added.
“Reynolds provides a calmness to their team and definitely a really strong kicking game,” he said.
“I’m looking for the same effort, and that’s around our line speed, kick pressure, our kick chase – they’re the non-negotiables if we want to win games from week to week, we have to build our game on that.
“We need to ice our opportunities and get out execution right … so we need to focus on getting our job done first and foremost.”
The Cowboys have made one change to their side that beat the Raiders with Reuben Cotter returning from a hamstring complaint to replace Mitch Dunn, who was ruled out for the season with an ACL tear.
Cotter has been named on the bench with young gun Griffin Neame retaining his spot in the interchange following a stellar cameo in their last hit-out.
Brisbane coach Kevin Walters has made one change to his side that downed Canterbury, with Corey Jensen replacing TC Robati on the bench to face his old club.
Walters also confirmed on Saturday forward Pat Carrigan is fit to play after knee soreness during the week.