Scott Bolton.

The North Queensland Cowboys rubbed shoulders with Black Caviar trainer Peter Moody while in Melbourne for their Round 25 match against the Storm at AAMI Park. Moody spent some time with the team the night before the match, and then sat in the coach’s box during game. Moody and Cowboys coach Paul Green know each other, and the match weekend was the perfect opportunity for the Melbourne-based Moody to touch base with his mate. The proud Queenslander admitted that he has a soft spot for the Broncos but Insider understands the Cowboys are fast making an impression on him.

There’s been a lot of speculation this week about who the Cowboys will play in week one of the finals … and when. The most likely scenario is a Friday or Saturday night game against the Broncos in Brisbane, with the winner to skip week two of the finals and progress through to a preliminary final in week three. The loser will host a knockout semi-final in week two of the finals series. No matter what happens in this week’s final round of games, the Cowboys will finish the regular season in third place. The key games this weekend which will directly determine the final order of the top eight – and, consequently, the first-round finals match-ups - will be: Broncos v Storm (Thursday); Roosters v Rabbitohs (Friday); Dragons v Tigers (Saturday); Sharks v Sea Eagles (Sunday); Bulldogs v Warriors (Sunday).

Gritty new boxing movie Southpaw, starring Jake Gyllenhaal, has been quite a hit with Cowboys players in the past fortnight. Most of the NRL squad have already seen the film, with assistant coach and boxing fan David Furner one of the first at the club to see it. Most players loved the film, despite its heavy content and largely depressing narrative. One member of the playing group actually cried during the film … his identity will remain a mystery but his teammates are certainly giving him plenty of stick.

Speaking of stick, Cowboys co-captain Johnathan Thurston – a renowned jokester – shared a massive laugh with teammate Ray Thompson (pictured) at training this week. While the players remain switched on and focused during their field sessions, there’s a relaxed vibe at the end of session and during breaks and the lads enjoy hamming it up and having a laugh at their own and teammates’ expense. As you can see from the pictures take on Wednesday, JT isn’t the only player bringing levity to the session, with Matt Scott doing his best bicep flex and Michael Morgan cheekily photobombing Sam Hoare while the big prop was hard at it on the gloves.

Hoare and Morgan were doing sideline boxing drills with the club’s rehab trainer Anthony Wood on the sidelines at 1300SMILES Stadium while the team completed their field session. It is common practice for players in the injured squad to do their rehab training alongside the field session, keeping the entire group together. Recently, injured halfback Robert Lui did shuffle runs on the sidelines, while Wednesday’s boxing session for Hoare and Morgan – as both recover from ankle injuries – was designed to keep their fitness up. 

At several times during the season, Cowboys head coach Paul Green invites members of the club’s under-20s squad to train with the main group. Classy National Youth Competition five-eighth Kyle Laybutt was involved in Wednesday’s session, the slightly built playmaker not taking a backward step during a defensive drill, much to the appreciation of his more experienced squad mates.