Townsend excited yet wary of NRL parity

North Queensland co-captain Chad Townsend expects the NRL will this year feature one of the tightest battles for top eight spots that he has seen in his lengthy NRL career.

The 32-year-old veteran is tasked with orchestrating another successful year in Townsville after a club record-equalling 17 wins in 2022, in just his first year at the club.

Townsend's kept a keen eye on acquisitions and player movement in the offseason and knows the parity in the NRL has improved significantly before 2023 begins on Thursday.

He "definitely" believes the battle for finals spots will be on slimmer margins and every game across the 27 rounds will count.

'There was probably a bit of separation last year between the top five and the rest of the comp," he told AAP.

"There's been a number of teams that have recruited very well and there'll be a couple of teams that might surprise a few people.

"At the end of the day our focus is here, and what we can do, and we've got an excited group that are ready to rip in."

Fresh off a third overall finish in 2022, the Cowboys enter this year with loftier external expectations and an internal desire to go one further.

Closer to home, Townsend and his leadership group are gunning for consecutive top four finishes and the significance it holds.

"History says if you're not in the top four, you can't win it," he said.

"We're aiming for the top four, and I think if we're not, we're probably wasting our time.

"We definitely want to give ourselves a chance at making the top four and then in those finals it's anyone's game.

"We've got a great squad that can compete ... we have to earn it though. Just because we did it last year doesn't mean it's going to happen again."