The mind games have officially begun for Saturday night’s semi-final clash at ANZ Stadium with North Queensland coach Paul Green declaring the Eels are “certainties” to beat his underdog Cowboys outfit.
Match Draw Widget
 Telstra Premiership – Finals Week 2: Eels vs Cowboys
North Queensland finished preparations for the sudden-death showdown on Friday after a short week that involved flights in and out of Sydney over the space of four days after their shock 15-14 win over the Sharks last weekend.
With no Johnathan Thurston and Matt Scott this finals series, Green’s side have flown under the radar despite boasting 11 premiership-winning players in their line-up.
“It’s a good position to be in [with] no expectation on us,” Green said on Friday.
“Parramatta have been the form team leading into the competition. They towelled the Broncos up at Suncorp which is not an easy thin to do and took Melbourne down to the wire.
“They’re probably certainties tomorrow night.”
Both sides tasted victory against each other in the regular rounds by more than 20-point margins, but are yet to meet each other at ANZ Stadium since the 2005 preliminary final – one of the Cowboys’ biggest upset victories over a more fancied Parramatta side.
A former Eel himself, Green says he understood the pressure mounting for Brad Arthur’s side to deliver on the big stage after a 30-year premiership drought.
“Western Sydney is a strong rugby league area and it has been a while since Parra have been in the finals so there will plenty of support,” Green said.
“But that adds to the atmosphere and we’re looking forward to that also.”
Green was confident the side could overcome the short turnaround with a heavy travelling schedule in-between.
The Cowboys flew home from Sunday’s victory against the Sharks on Monday before flying back into Sydney on Thursday.
“It’s been fairly tough physically so recovery has been the focus this week,” Green said.
“You have to get the balance right of getting over last week and preparing for this week. We’ve done enough travel in the last few years and got our head around what is required and what it takes out of us.
“I’m happy with where we are at.”
Injured Cowboys centre Justin O’Neill remains a chance to return from a dislocated elbow after travelling with the side and completing the captain’s training run in Sydney.
The coach remained tight-lipped on who he would replace.
“We’ll cross that bridge when it comes to it,” Green said.
“He got through training so we will see how he pulls up [on Saturday].
“We’ve had a good week, everyone is well at this stage.”