Excitement is building and the buzz around the Cowboys is palpable as the club prepares for massive matches this weekend. The Cowboys National Youth Competition team takes on the Manly Sea Eagles in their preliminary final at AAMI Park on Saturday from 5pm, followed by the blockbuster National Rugby League clash between the Cowboys and the Melbourne Storm from 7.40pm. The appearance of both Cowboys teams in the top four and just one week out from the grand final is a testament to the depth of talent, the coaching and the organisational structures in place at the club. A lot of hard work goes into match preparation, training, monitoring and scheduling, the culmination of which is having the NYC and NRL primed and firing at the business end of the year.

Whether you’re at AAMI Park on Saturday or cheering from your loungeroom or your local, give us as loud a voice as you can, North Queensland members and fans as both teams strive to book a place in the grand final.

Proof that North Queensland is suffering a severe dose of finals fever is evident at every turn. The club managed to fill a 100-seat charter flight for members and supporters in quick time, while many others are making their own way to Melbourne for the match. And there will be a strong contingent of southern-based supporters at the game. The Cowboys’ supporter base has always stretched the length and breadth of the nation, and the club even has its own Sydney-based supporters club called the Southern Stampede, whose principal organiser Tania Foster has been inundated with various Cowboys-related inquiries pertaining to the big match. One media request involved Tania being asked to track down a young Sydney-based Cowboys fan to cook cupcakes emblazoned with the club’s logo.

The Cowboys football staff, like everyone at club HQ, work hard and have a laser-like focus on the job at hand, week-in, week-out. One staffer, though, went above and beyond this week in both his regular role and then in support of the game’s development in NQ. High performance unit chief and Cowboys life member Paul Bowman finished up his post-game duties after Saturday night’s massive win over the Sharks at about 11pm. Rather than enjoy a well-deserved post-game beer, Bowman and his family piled into the car to drive almost three hours south to his home town of Proserpine for the Paul Bowman Challenge, the under-9s carnival named in his honour. Bowman and players form the Mackay Cutters Intrust Super Cup team oversaw the popular event, which was attended by 720 kids from 48 teams. “Bear” was in Proserpine for only about 12 hours before returning to Townsville to help with preparation for this weekend’s preliminary final.

In days gone by, a player wearing black boots wouldn’t raise an eyebrow as that was the popular choice. By Cowboys NYC player Kyle Laybutt stood out his week at training as he ran past a media throng. Laybutt – recently re-signed to the club for two more years – was wearing boots of the traditional colour in an age where white, flouro and all colours in between is seen as the norm. It’s a far cry from the infamous 1975 Graeme Langlands white boots incident.

Laybutt was one of four signings announced this week, with fellow young gun Josh Chudleigh (one year) and veteran props Scott Bolton (two years) and Ben Hannant (one year) also inking new deals.