JT's incredible praise for inspired Cowboys

Scott Bailey
AAP
JT's incredible praise for inspired Cowboys

Forget their 2015 grand final victory, North Queensland maestro Johnathan Thurston has hailed this year's Cowboys the gutsiest NRL team he has ever seen.

By all realistic expectations North Queensland should never have made it as far this Saturday's preliminary final against the Sydney Roosters at Allianz Stadium.

Without Thurston and fellow co-captain Matt Scott they finished eighth and only snuck into the finals on the back of results going their way in the final round.

They've also trailed at half-time in both of their finals victories over more-fancied opponents Cronulla and Parramatta, despite having had the extra burden of a 2000-kilometre trip to Sydney before each game.

Thurston, who is just one match shy of his 300th NRL game and been one of the league's best at all levels for the past 12 years, reckons he's never seen any other effort like it.

"I don't have the words that just sums the boys up," Thurston told AAP.

"I haven't seen anything like it while I have been at the club.

"I can't think of another team that's done anything like it off the top of my head.

"It's just a real tough footy team. Everyone is carrying injuries this time of the year. They just keep turning up for each other. I'm just absolutely over the moon for them."

North Queensland's finals run has been made even more incredible by the mounting injury toll for players still on the field.

With a number of players stepping up into more senior roles and responsibilities than usual, Te Maire Martin (knee), Shaun Fensom (knee), Justin O'Neill (elbow), Antonio Winterstein (hamstring), Gavin Cooper (calf) and Lachlan Coote (ankle) have all played through pain late in the run home.

Coen Hess could also be in doubt for Saturday's clash at Allianz Stadium after he succumbed to a knee injury against Parramatta, but still claimed after the match he'd be an almost certain starter.

Thurston said that made the Cowboys' unlikely streak even more incredible in the face of the adversity the club was facing.

"People just keep writing this team off but I thought last week (against Cronulla) was one of the best wins for the club," Thurston said on Saturday.

"But tonight ... If you only knew what the boys are playing with, how tough they are. I haven't seen it at my time at the club.

"But that's the culture of the club and the playing group and they just keep turning up for each other."