The North Queensland Toyota Cowboys have acknowledged that only hard work, commitment and a strong performance will steal two points from the dominant Melbourne Storm when they meet in Townsville on Friday night.
The Storm have obvious strengths in their spine, with Cameron Smith in career-best form, while Cooper Cronk and Billy Slater aren't far behind, and the 'big three' look unhindered by the fullback's absence for the majority of the last two years.
The Cowboys have the best conditions they could ask for to upset the premiership favourites. Last week they built an early lead against the second-placed Sydney Roosters to prove that they can match it with the top teams, while a second-half comeback for the Roosters has captain Gavin Cooper and his teammates champing at the bit to make up for the loss.
"If we can't get up for a game against the Storm with five weeks to go I think we're in trouble," Cooper said.
"The level of footy that they're playing at the moment is a good level above everybody else so it will be a massive test for us at home.
"We took some harsh lessons out of the weekend down in Sydney, we were good for a half of footy but obviously a half of footy didn't get the job done."
Coach Paul Green has called on his players to lift against the ever-consistent Storm, and is doubtful that they'll present any weaknesses on Friday night.
"[Cameron Smith] has probably been in career-best form just about. Consistently he's been playing well he really took hold of that third Origin game and has done the same at club level ever since," Green said.
With Cameron Munster ruled out with an ankle injury and doubt lingering over the availability of Billy Slater, Green is keeping his focus on the performance of his own team, noting that whoever steps into the role for the Storm will still make them a formidable team.
"You can't worry too much about whether or not those guys are out," he said.
"It doesn't change too much about how we play, I know it won't change how they play. We've just got to focus on what we can control and that's our prep."
First published on NRL.com.