THEY may literally have limped into September, but Cowboys legend Brent Tate has urged them to unleash their attack and "have a red hot crack" in Sunday's elimination final against Cronulla.
The Cowboys were handed a seventh straight finals berth, the NRL's equal best current stretch in alongside Melbourne, after the Bulldogs upset St George-Illawarra on Sunday to deny the Dragons a finals berth.
North Queensland has used 32 players this year as they deal with a huge casualty ward, and several stars are carrying injuries they wouldn't continue playing with if it was earlier in the year.
The ten day break after Thursday's loss to Brisbane is exactly what the Cowboys need to lick their wounds before the do-or-die clash in Sydney.
Tate believes they need to take off their attacking shackles after it proved successful against Wests Tigers in round 25, their only victory in the last six games.
"No one's going to give them a chance or a hope, I think it's a really good position to be in," Tate said.
"I just hope they go down and throw a bit of caution to the wind, have a red hot crack.
"We saw what the Cowboys are capable of when they did that in the second half against the Tigers.
"We've seen lately that teams who play a bit of footy are rewarded."
The Cowboys have always maintained injuries wouldn't be used as an excuse if they failed to make finals.
They may have needed a fair slice of luck to squeeze into eighth spot, but Tate said they can play with freedom with few external expectation.
The two sides have a rich recent history in September. Cronulla ended North Queensland's season last year with a 32-20 win in the preliminary finals en route to their first premiership, while the Cowboys hammered them 39-0 in 2015.
"Greens (coach Paul Green) has always said while he's been happy with the effort, there has been games the last few weeks they probably should have been in, or won," Tate said.
"I've said all along whether they make the finals or not, this season really does set it up nicely for next year.
"They've blooded some blokes who ordinarily may not have got a game in first grade. All those guys will get a taste of semi final footy.
"There's always expectation internally we expect to play finals footy, and we are once again."
The Cowboys will be sweating on winger Antonio Winterstein's scan result on Monday after he re-injured his hamstring against the Broncos.
Fullback Lachlan Coote (ankle), Te Maire Martin (knee), Shaun Fensom (knee) and John Asiata (elbow) are all carrying injuries, and will benefit from the extended rest.
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