North Queensland coach Todd Payten remains confident his team is on track for NRL pre-season trials despite the loss of promising forward Tom Gilbert.
The Cowboys will be without their emerging young prop for up to eight weeks after he suffered a broken fibula in training.
Payten said 20-year-old Gilbert, who made 12 appearances for the Cowboys in 2020, brought high energy to the squad and his injury was disappointing news.
"He's a really professional, intense kid and he drives a lot of what we do in training," Payten said.
"We're going to miss him and it's tough for him but in the end, we don't necessarily need him right immediately.
"We just have to get him fit so he's healthy for the back end of the year."
Payten said his preparation of the squad is different compared to his time with the Warriors, but he believes the Cowboys strengths lie in different aspects on the field.
"I think athletically we're probably a little bit better across the park than, say, the Warriors.
"They're probably a little bit more skilful than different parts of our squad.
"Our strength is certainly getting up the field, and the way that we've attacked our training sessions from day to day has been impressive.
"We're starting to look like a footy team, and at the moment with the way that we've changed the way we're doing things, it's kind of been two steps forward, one step backwards.
Outside of rugby league, Payten has had to come to terms with North Queensland's tropical weather.
"In New Zealand, we don't have to factor in the heat and that's been a challenge," he said.
"There's probably been three, four days this pre-season where we're sweating really uncomfortably.
"It's the decisions that they make in those conditions that probably open my eyes up again to how difficult it is to handle what we do up here.
"I am pretty comfortable where we are at, but we still have some work to do."