The Warriors' big turnaround in the NRL hasn't surprised North Queensland star Johnathan Thurston.
The Kangaroos and Queensland great saw the Warriors' resurgence up close when the Cowboys fell to a 22-12 defeat at Mt Smart Stadium.
Few would have tipped the Warriors, who have missed out on the finals since 2011, to be on a 5-0 run to start the season.
But Thurston says they're a side with "talent across the park".
"They are probably finally playing to their potential," he said.
What was different about 2018, Thurston said, was their defensive resilience - which was on show as they held out against repeated forays by the Cowboys on Saturday night.
"They're defending well," he said.
"They've always been a side that attack but their defence is what's winning them games."
The champion halfback could see the influence of fitness guru Alex Corvo, who joined the Warriors in the off-season and whom Thurston knows from representative duty.
"They look a lot fitter, they look a lot stronger," he said.
"Issac Luke is probably looking the best he has in a few years. They're finally starting to put it together."
As for the Cowboys, who have fallen to four defeats in a row, Thurston said morale remained "pretty good".
He thought their attack was more fluent than in the 33-14 defeat to Penrith the previous week, but conceding "early and soft tries" continued to be a problem.
"The boys are continuing to work extremely hard but nothing comes easy in this competition," he said.
"You need to fight for everything."