Through the gap: Raiders star Dane Tilse says Canberra won't be taking an Origin-depleted Cowboys side lightly. Photo: Getty Images
The Canberra Raiders have got in-form North Queensland at the perfect time, but won't be taking them lightly despite the Cowboys being without their State of Origin stars.
The Cowboys will be missing master playmaker Johnathan Thurston, winger Brent Tate and Kangaroos props Matt Scott and James Tamou for Sunday's clash at Canberra Stadium.
Thurston, Tate and Scott were on Monday night named in the Queensland side for the series opener at Suncorp Stadium next Wednesday night.
Cowboys playmaker Johnathan Thurston, who carved up the Raiders in round one, will be absent this weekend due to Origin duties.
Tamou is expected to retain his spot in the NSW forward pack when Blues coach Laurie Daley unveils his squad on Tuesday.
The Raiders are largely unaffected by the representative period, after just second-rower Josh Papalii kept his spot in the Maroons squad.
Along with their Origin trio, the Cowboys have also been heavily hit with injuries.
Second-rower Gavin Cooper (dislocated hip) is out for at least 12 weeks, while hooker Cameron King (knee) is sidelined for the rest of the season.
However, Raiders prop Dane Tilse still expected the Cowboys to be formidable opposition after they easily disposed of the reigning premiers, the Sydney Roosters, at the weekend.
"They just had a really good win up there and they're starting to hit a bit of form, so we probably have got them at a good time, but we need to worry about ourselves,'' Tilse said.
"You can't take any first-grade team in the comp for granted, there's no easy week and with the players the Cowboys have out, that's going to put more pressure on us. If we improve our execution and have the same attitude, we'll be right.''
The Raiders (3-7) have lost their past three games to sit near the bottom of the table, but showed significant improvement in Sunday's 26-20 loss to the Penrith Panthers at Canberra Stadium.
They were much better defensively than their defeats to Manly and the New Zealand Warriors where they conceded more than 50 points in each game.
Simple handling errors – the Raiders completed just 24 of their 35 sets – combined with a couple of controversial refereeing decisions going against them proved their downfall.
It was also the first game this season for halves combination of Terry Campese and Josh McCrone, after Jack Wighton moved back to the centres and looked comfortable.
"We had some new combinations and you can see there's some potential with Jack out wide and McCrone back to the halves, so we're only going to get better,'' Tilse said.
"The attitude was a lot better, we just shot ourselves in the foot by not completing sets.
"Everyone in the crowd could see that if we hung on to the ball we would've got that win.''