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North Queensland coach Todd Payten says his side can still challenge for the NRL's top eight despite facing a tough run home this season.
The Cowboys are on a five game slide and face competition juggernauts Melbourne on Friday, who will arrive in Townsville on a 14-game winning streak.
Of North Queensland's remaining seven regular-season fixtures in 2021, four are against teams in the top eight including clashes with Parramatta, St George Illawarra and Manly.
Results in those fixtures could prove decisive if North Queensland can take maximum points from meetings with Brisbane, Wests Tigers and Gold Coast.
Just two points outside the eight but sitting 13th on the ladder - due to their inferior points differential - Payten admits they are still hopeful of playing finals but was ony focused on what was immediately in front of them.
"It's still possible, whether its probable or not I'm not going to debate on that," he said on their finals chances.
"While we're still with our head above water we're going to get out and swing and fight, and we're going to have to fight harder - we're playing a really good team tomorrow.
"We've seen what can happen if you string a couple of games together - but old cliche - its one week at a time and we're looking no further than eight o'clock tomorrow night."
The Cowboys will have to claw for their wins without stars Valentine Holmes and teenage sensation Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow, after the pair suffered injuries in the past week.
Holmes is nursing an AC joint injury to his shoulder while Tabuai-Fidow could miss the rest of the season after undergoing emergency surgery on his appendix on Wednesday.
"That's footy, and things happen all the time which are unexpected," Payten said.
"We've just got to find a way to get around it and move forward."
Along with managing injuries, the North Queensland will need to find away to contain a rampaging Storm outfit averaging more than 37 points a game this season - amassing 111 tries in just 17 games.
The Storm are aiming for a club record-equalling 15 consecutive victories but will rest five-eighth Cameron Munster, along with Maroons teammate Felise Kaufusi and Cowboys off-season target Dale Finucane.
North Queensland have offered Finucane a three-year, $600,000 a season deal to bolster their pack in 2022 and Payten said the representative forward is high priority for the club.
"He can add a lot of value for us as a team on and off the park, I think he's a high quality player, played origin and is tough, he's exactly what we need," he said.