Coach Neil Henry says the Cowboys are not allowing themselves to be distractied by hometown hype ahead of Saturday's must-win final against Brisbane. Photo: Getty Images
A severe case of Cowboys mania won't affect North Queensland ahead of their NRL elimination final against Brisbane in Townsville on Saturday night, according to coach Neil Henry.
The Cowboys' hometown is buzzing ahead of the must-win showdown against their arch rivals - a match that will draw the curtain on the career of Broncos legend Petero Civoniceva or North Queensland stalwart Aaron Payne.
Henry admitted there were plenty of potential distractions but claimed they were only focussed on building on their four-match winning run against a wobbly Brisbane.
'It's a massive game - it doesn't get much better than this," Henry said.
"The Cowboys against Broncos in a finals game, a full house, Matty Bowen's 250th and Petero's last game hopefully.
"There is a bit of a buzz around town."
Livewire fullback Bowen has been thrust into the limelight thanks to his looming milestone in what Henry described as a "career-best season".
But the retiring Payne will be the name on everyone's lips if the fifth-placed Cowboys stall at the first finals hurdle this weekend.
Asked if he would consider their season a failure if they bombed in the first finals round for the second straight year, Henry said: "You'd be very disappointed.
"To have the momentum we have and the wins at the back end of the season, to get beat at home, you'd see it as a very disappointing (finish).
"But it now comes down to one game."
Henry did not believe the emotion surrounding what could be Payne's final game would get to the team or the veteran hooker.
"Aaron is just excited. He has clarity now that he has made the decision (to retire)," he said.
"He is rapt he is playing in front of family and friends.
"To him it is another chance to play here and hopefully progress deep into the finals."
The Cowboys coach said backrower Gavin Cooper had been given the green light over a shoulder complaint while James Segeyaro again appears to have pipped Anthony Mitchell for the utility bench spot.