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Cowboys fuelled by doubters

Wayne Heming 24/07/2011 12:25:16 PM Comments (0)

Angry at being written off as genuine top four hopes without star playmaker Johnathan Thurston, centre Willie Tonga says North Queensland want to make their critics choke on their words.

Tonga revealed after the Cowboys beat Gold Coast for a second consecutive away win that he and his teammates felt insulted to be so easily dismissed as soon as Thurston injured his knee during State of Origin III.

Punters and bookmakers were quick to put a red line through the Cowboys after Thurston's setback, declaring the top four to be a battle between Melbourne, Manly, St George Illawarra and Brisbane.

Thurston is set to miss another four or five games yet before returning but the Cowboys are adamant they shouldn't be dismissed as top four chances.

The classy Tonga, who's overcome his own serious injury to be back in top form, said away wins against Newcastle and the Titans had shown doubters the Cowboys were the real deal and could win without their champion No.7.

"A lot of the boys took that very personally," Tonga told AAP.

"We showed against Newcastle and we fought back against the Titans to get a win that we are not a one-man team."

Thurston made the trip down from Townsville and while he couldn't play, there's no doubt his expletive-packed halftime blast contributed to the Cowboys coming back from 14-6 down to win 28-20 to reclaim fourth place on percentages ahead of Brisbane, who were steamrolled 26-6 by a ruthless Melbourne on Friday night.

"Some of the things he (Thurston) said to the the guys at halftime really hit the nail on the head and needed to be said," admitted Tonga.

"He joked around after the game about having to do that but that's the type of person he is, he's very passionate."

Tonga was also in awe of the way fullback Matt Bowen ran the show behind inexperienced young halves Ben Jones and Ray Thompson, who continue to grow in confidence.

"He's stepped up and he's leading us at the moment," said Tonga.

"He's among the most talented players I've played alongside and it's such a honour to watch him.

"I'm still a huge fan. I tell him every time he does something how special he is.

"He's still a great entertainer."

The win was a boost for 21-year-old rookie halves Jones and Thompson, who can build on their new partnership until Thurston gets back.

"It's very encouraging for the young boys to know they can do the job and that we've got faith in them," said Tonga.

The Queensland centre was also full of praise for veteran Brent Tate who in just his second game for the club following knee surgery scored a key try and showed signs he wasn't far off recapturing his best form.

"He's up there with one of the most competitive blokes I know," said Tonga, whose courage in battling through most of this year's first Origin game with a serious shoulder injury is now folklore.

"To see him come from where he was to be back on the field in a Cowboys jersey is inspiring to everyone."

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