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Room in Payne's house to improve

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Refocused goals and a desire to continue to improve have been the driving forces at training this week as Aaron Payne’s North Queensland Toyota Cowboys Under-20s look to unravel the Eels at home today.

Cowboys v Eels tickets

Some brilliant recent form – the team has scored 94 points in their past two matches and conceded 18 – has the young Cowboys within spitting distance of the top of the National Youth Competition ladder, but Coach Payne sees room for improvement.

“We’ve still been poor in some areas,” Payne said.

“This week at training, we’ve been talking about and trying to fix our core defence, which wasn’t up to scratch last week.

“So, although we’re playing well, we’ve picked a couple of things this week that have been a real focus and getting the guys to hone in on that.”

The Cowboys – still with a game in hand – have dropped just the one match in 2017 and are sitting in second spot on the NYC ladder, three points behind the Penrith Panthers.

The Eels have a four-win, four-loss record and are in seventh spot, but Payne is cautious about a side with plenty of attacking potency out wide.

"They have three outside backs who routinely run for over 200m, so we’ll have to be wary of them.”

Payne will take a largely unchanged team into the match with staff monitoring the fitness of in-form winger Murray Taulagi (knee).

The game kicks off at 5.30pm.