Momentum the key for Cowboys: Payten

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Sunday's clash with Wests Tigers is the third and final leg of a significant home stand for Todd Payten's North Queensland side, with the coach fully aware of the path ahead to the NRL finals.

Following split results against Brisbane and Cronulla, the last-placed Tigers travel to face the second-placed Cowboys in Townsville, before Payten's men hit the road for a string of three away games.

A wary Payten said the Tigers, with whom he won the 2005 premiership with, will play "with nothing to lose" and their own performance is imperative to garnering momentum at the back end of the season.

"We expect them to throw the ball around and play with a little bit of risk," Payten said of the Tigers.

"It's an important game for us this week - we go into three away trips back-to-back.

"We've manipulated our training and travel schedule around this three week period ... We've spoken about the schedule and the last seven weeks and how important it is for us to maintain momentum.

"And we've given ourselves an opportunity to go on a run, or take a shot at finals football, but we've still got some work to do."

Many within the club will have one eye on their forthcoming schedule, but one Cowboy solely focused on Sunday's clash is former Tigers second-rower Luciano Leilua.

The 26-year-old completed a mid-season switch north during the international window, debuting off the bench in the Cowboys' 40-26 derby win over the Broncos.

He made 56 appearances for the joint-venture club between 2020 and 2022, scoring 13 tries in his tenure.

But Leilua's received glowing comments from his coach since moving north and said he's focused on rewarding Payten's faith in him.

"I've got to sort of pay him back," Leilua told AAP earlier in July.

"He's given me the opportunity to come up here, I've got to play for him, for the organisation and for the boys.

"I'm just doing my part and if I can make Todd happy, that just comes with it."

Tigers skipper James Tamou will line up for his 300th NRL game against the Cowboys, who he played 170 games for and won a premiership with in 2015.

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