Cowboys: We can win without JT
The North Queensland pack have denied they rely too much on injured star forward Jason Taumalolo as they prepare for the possibility the Tongan international will be missing again this weekend.
The Cowboys are sweating on the availability of Taumalolo (knee) and Queensland Origin forward Coen Hess (ankle) for Friday's showdown with the Warriors.
Both players must prove their fitness at training on Tuesday after missing Saturday's loss to the Sharks.
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The 26-16 defeat by Cronulla has only strengthened perceptions the Cowboys are easybeats without Taumalolo.
According to Fox Sports Stats, since the 27-year-old became a regular first-grader in 2014, the Cowboys have won only five of the 13 games he has not played.
Even more damning is that Taumalolo has missed 10 games since 2017 with North Queensland winning just two.
It's a familiar scenario for the club, which battled a similar issue when Johnathan Thurston was off the park.
However North Queensland's other senior players are refusing to buy into the idea the Cowboys cannot win without Taumalolo.
Veteran Gavin Cooper, who played with both Thurston and Taumalolo, said there was no denying their powerful on-field presence, but Taumalolo's absence on Saturday had nothing to do with their loss to the Sharks.
"That just shows the impact those guys have when they do play," Cooper said of the Cowboys' win-loss record with Taumalolo.
"They're guys that like to lead from the front, whether that be Jase in the more recent times or JT before that.
"It's just the way that they like to play. The stats they put up when they play are big but it's also the impact they have on the players around them."
Taumalolo, Hess and Mitch Dunn (concussion) all trained on Monday but will need to prove their fitness today to take on the Warriors.
With John Asiata sidelined for four to six weeks by a knee injury, North Queensland's depth is about to be tested.
Forward Josh McGuire is confident the younger players, like last week's debutant Tom Gilbert, are up for the challenge.
"Is it harder without Jase? Yes," McGuire said.
"He's the greatest player that's ever played in the middle of the field so obviously it makes the job a little bit harder.
"But we have a lot of talent in this team.
"You can't learn how to do it until you're chucked in the deep end. Those young guys, it's a cutthroat business and you have to sink or swim.
"You're only going to get better by chucking them in the deep end to see how they go."
Originally published as Cowboys: We can win without JT