NORTH QUEENSLAND'S decision not to attend the Dally M awards will help them avoid repeating last year's finals series meltdown against Manly, according to co-captain Matt Scott.
Halfback Michael Morgan scored three tries and fullback Matt Bowen turned on a dazzler as NQ's 33-16 elimination-final win over Brisbane at Dairy Farmers Stadium last night ended the Broncos' season and veteran prop Petero Civoniceva's career.
But an appointment with Manly on Friday returns Neil Henry's team to the scene of a 42-8 loss to the same opposition in the 2011 finals series.
Farewell ... Petero Civoniceva walks off the field after playing his last NRL match. Photo: Getty Images
''We had a relatively inexperienced side last year and I think we've come a long way as a team - particularly defensively,'' Scott said.
''We're gaining a bit of confidence in the build-up now, in the way we're playing, and hopefully we have a good week of preparation.
''We were a bit all over the place last year, flying back from New Zealand and Dally Ms and all that sort of stuff. It will be good to stay home for a few days and get our preparation exactly right.
''We've usually got the underdog tag - it was a different build-up for us tonight. There was a fair bit of pressure on us to perform and we came out and did it.''
While Civoniceva's career is over, that of Cowboys hooker Aaron Payne is also in jeopardy. Payne is planning to retire at the end of the season and went off in the first half with a knee injury.
Civoniceva took time out at full-time to thank three of his longest-serving teammates - Corey Parker, Sam Thaiday and Justin Hodges - for their support.
''I had a quiet word to Sam and to Corey and to Justin,'' Civoniceva said. ''They're three guys who I've had such a long history with playing throughout my career and I said to them, 'Thanks for everything'.
''I've got so many great memories of playing alongside them.
''I guess it hasn't really sunk in. I guess when I get home and unpack the football bag … that's the last time I'll ever be doing that again. No doubt it will be pretty emotional, seeing the family and the kids.''
Captain Thaiday paid tribute to Civoniceva, saying: ''When I came down from growing up in Townsville, he really took me under his wing. I really learned a lot from him.''
Scott said: ''Credit to Petero, he's had an incredible career and it was them or us tonight. I'm glad it's us.''
Broncos coach Anthony Griffin said whoever won was going to be a tough nut for Manly to crack, given the injury to Jamie Lyon, with Jason King and Steve Matai also on report.
''Whoever won tonight, I thought, was a good chance,'' Griffin said. ''Manly, they're a bit busted now … If you win tonight, you cop the next team on rebound. That Manly-Canterbury game was always going to be a dogfight. Whoever came out of the back of that was going to have to face us or the Cowboys with a bit of momentum. They're a good chance, the Cowboys.''
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