Finals heartbreak fuel for 2023 Cowboys

·2-min read

North Queensland coach Todd Payten has challenged his players to use the pain of Friday's home preliminary final loss to Parramatta as fuel for next season.

The Cowboys came agonisingly close to a fourth grand final in club history but Parramatta outlasted them late to fire back from 20-12 down to prevail by four points.

Mid-season recruit Luciano Leilua said the match, much like his season, was a roller coaster.

Leilua joined the Cowboys after a mid-season switch from Wests Tigers and while his former side finished last, he came one game away from the final two.

In Friday's clash his co-captain Jason Taumalolo was sin-binned in the first half, they locked the game up at 12-12 on halftime, a rocking 25,000 fans spurred them on late in the contest, but two tries in seven minutes from the visitors crushed their hopes.

Leilua said the result was tough but his coach has already set the tone for next year.

"(Todd) said we let that game go, and that we're a better team to let a lead of 20-12 slip," Leilua told AAP.

"Be angry but use it as a fuel for next year."

Payten's straightforward but blunt approach has been a welcome sign for 26-year-old Leilua, who believes he's in career best form since his switch to the Cowboys.

The dial now turns towards to time off in the off-season, then doing it all again. Leilua is confident in the platform they've established after flipping the script in 2022.

"We just got to stay humble and make sure we don't pump our tires up," he said.

"Get ready for a big season next year and it's obviously disappointing in the way we finished but we let that game go. It wont happen again."