North Queensland proved they could cope without their State of Origin stars as they crushed the Gold Coast Titans 32-6 on Thursday night.
The Cowboys are out to win the 2022 NRL grand final this season and have started the campaign in blistering fashion with nine wins from 13 games.
It was suggested that Todd Payten’s side would struggle during the State of Origin series after losing four men to the Queensland side. Valentine Holmes, Reuben Cotter, Jeremiah Nanai and Tom Dearden are all with the Maroons ahead of game one next week.
However it did not make a difference against a struggling Titans side on the Gold Coast. Tom Gilbert and Heilum Luki earned special praise from Payten as his side romped to victory.
"I thought Tommy Gilbert was awesome. Heilim, I think only his second or third start in his career, played really strong, scored a try, really threatening, defended well," Payten told reporters after the game.
"Those guys are surely going to be included in the conversation around Origin, whether it's this series or the future. Everyone was really excited about those guys getting selected and the guys coming in were excited about their opportunity."
Meanwhile playmaker Chad Townsend believes the Cowboys have not shown their best yet this season and believes there is even more to come from them.
"It's a long season, we're happy with where we're sitting, but we've got improvement in us,” Townsend added. "Do we believe we can beat the best? We do, but I don't think we're at our best yet."