North Queensland forward Josh McGuire won't 'baby' the depleted side's reinforcements, saying they have earnt their stripes in the absence of Jason Taumalolo.
The NRL's form middle forward missed Saturday's error-riddled loss to Cronulla with bone bruising in his knee, making it eight defeats from the past 10 games he hadn't featured in.
Taumalolo was on light duties at Monday's training session as he attempted to prove his fitness for Friday's clash with the Warriors.
Coen Hess (ankle) was another pre-match scratching, while Mitch Dunn (head knock) was a mid-game casualty. Ball-playing forward John Asiata will miss up to six weeks with a knee injury to leave coach Paul Green assessing his stocks.
McGuire admitted Taumalolo, averaging 272 run metres across three games this season, was impossible to replace but didn't think of the Cowboys as a one-man band.
"Is it harder without Jase? Yes (because) he's the greatest player that's ever played in the middle," the Queensland and Australian forward said.
"I don't really (feel an extra responsibility without Taumalolo in the side); I haven't changed since I was 21 ... whether Jase is there or not there, my role doesn't change.
"The effort was there. We just needed to be better in the smaller areas of the game that cost us and especially with these new rules; you just can't afford to give away cheap ball."
He said Tom Gilbert had proved himself on debut thanks to Green's patient approach with the next crop.
"You have to bide your time a bit. He had to work very hard for his opportunity," McGuire said of last year's Queensland Cup rookie of the year.
"He's part of the family now - he's earnt his stripes.
"With those young guys ... it's a cut-throat business. You've got to sink or swim and Tommy Gilbert proved he was ready."
McGuire is a fan of the NRL's rule tweaks which he thinks have encouraged a better flow and allowed smaller forwards to "ask questions" of the game's biggest men once they tire.
But he said his own side's errors meant that flow went against the Cowboys and contributed to the loss.
Cowboys veteran Gavin Cooper agreed their issue wasn't the absence of their star forward.
"We just need to hold the ball ... if we don't have the ball, Jason can't run it (even if he is playing)," he said.
"The stats they put up when they play are big, but we did enough to be in a good position to win that game, as poorly as we played."