Cowboys brush off Raiders NRL complacency claims

Todd Payten has shot down claims from Ricky Stuart that North Queensland will underestimate Canberra in the Townsville heat, accusing the veteran NRL coach of round-one mind games.

Stuart raised eyebrows in North Queensland earlier this week when he suggested Payten's team would expect little from the Raiders in 30C temperatures in their first match of the year.

High levels of humidity are also forecast for North Queensland at kick-off, against a Raiders team renowned for enjoying cold Saturday nights at GIO Stadium during the winter.

The comments went largely unreported after Stuart's weekly press conference in Canberra on Wednesday, but did not go unnoticed by Payten and the Cowboys.

"I did see that comment. I thought it was classic Stick," Payten said.

"I've been coached by Stick many years ago. To use us as ammunition from words coming out of our organisation, has been done before.

"I've seen it, I'm not surprised.

"I am telling you now we haven't spoken about it. Both teams are playing in the same conditions."

Payten played with Stuart at Canberra during the 1990s, and was also recruited to the Sydney Roosters by the ex-halfback in his first stint as an NRL coach in 2003.

The Cowboys coach was adamant on Friday the conditions would not suit any one team, and would instead put an emphasis on completing for both sides early in the season.

"Ball control becomes important," Payten said.

"It's the same as when we go down there from our point of view.

"Conditions haven't come into our conversations. It's about us getting our game right on the back of a disappointing (trial) performance against the Broncos."

Payten did, however, agree with Stuart's assertion that his Cowboys are capable of being a top-four side again this year after going from 15th in 2021 to last year's preliminary finals.

"We are absolutely capable (of top four)," Payten said.

"This time 12 months ago we knew who we wanted to be. Now we know who we are.

"We have found our identity. We just need to play to that identity, things need to work out."

The Cowboys are without Luciano Leilua indefinitely as he fights a domestic violence charge, while Payten will be patient with Mitchell Dunn and Heilum Luki.

Dunn and Luki have started running again after last year's serious knee injuries, and Payten does not expect either to return before round four at the earliest.