North Queensland coach Paul Green admits he may have to roll the dice and play recovering stars Gavin Cooper and Lachlan Coote in a bid to keep their NRL finals hopes alive.
The seventh-placed Cowboys received a boost for Friday night's crunch clash with Wests Tigers with winger Antonio Winterstein returning from a hamstring complaint to replace the injured Kalyn Ponga.
Queensland back-rower Cooper (calf) and No.1 Coote (ankle) have been named on an extended bench for a game the Cowboys must win to get their top-eight campaign back on track.
Green admits he may have to throw caution to the wind and inject Cooper and Coote against the Tigers in a bid to snap their four-game losing run and launch a finals tilt.
"It's a bit challenging at the moment," he said.
"There's a few guys that are borderline there so we won't know right up until the last session if they're fit.
"We don't have the luxury of too many more weeks in the comp and where we're sitting in the ladder probably puts us more towards that position than being a little bit more cautious like I was earlier in the year.
"The short turnaround and travel makes it a little more complicated but nothing we haven't been through before."
Green isn't happy with the Cowboys' month-long winless streak but is content that their finals destiny was still in their hands.
They moved up one spot to seventh on points differential ahead of the Tigers match after top-eight rivals Manly's 30-16 loss to Canterbury.
"It's a good position to be in, we lose four in a row and go up the ladder - I am pretty happy about that," Green laughed.
"But the good part about that is it's up to us from here.
"That bit I am really happy about. It starts on Friday night."
North Queensland have also welcomed back utility John Asiata (elbow) on the bench.