They are staring down the barrel of missing the finals despite being one of the pre-season favourites for the title and coach Paul Green wants his Cowboys to show they're up to the challenge in their crucial clash with South Sydney.
North Queensland's 3-7 start to the season has been one of the Telstra Premiership's biggest shocks in 2018 and Green wants his players to view their crunch game with the in-form Rabbitohs as a challenge to overcome, rather than an obstacle that could send the 14th-placed side further down the ladder.
They will be rank underdogs against a Souths pack that played a big part in overcoming the Dragons in round 10, but Green believes they can rise to the challenge if they go in with the right attitude at 1300SMILES Stadium.
"If you look at it in that negative mindset then it becomes harder for you, if you look at it as a challenge then it becomes a motivator," Green said.
"How that's going to pan out we'll wait and see, but hopefully it's the latter."
The Cowboys' mindset could be given a boost or suffer a setback on Saturday morning depending on how injured key players, including Shaun Fensom, Jason Taumalolo and Ben Hampton, pull up after their last training session of the week.
Young centre Enari Tuala and forward Francis Molo are on standby, but Green is hopeful they won't be needed.
"Fensom is the guy under the most doubt, we've just got to make sure they all pull up well which I'm expecting them to do," he said.
"He's very tough, very mentally tough as we know that's the way he plays the game, he's also team-first which is probably the most important thing. There's no doubt he could get out there but he's got to make sure he gets his job done and he's played enough footy to know whether or not he can do that."
While Tuala's inclusion "depends on the injuries", according to Green, he conceded an injection of youth could be what the Cowboys need.
"At some point you've got to look at that, because that's probably what we need ... bringing a bit of youthful experience sometimes brings that enthusiasm that you're looking for, so it's definitely an option," Green said.