Chilli Sydney camp to 'galvanise' Cowboys: Todd Payten

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Coach Todd Payten has indicated back-to-back Sydney fixtures and a week away with his squad is exactly what's required to "galvanise" North Queensland into the back-end of the NRL season.

The Cowboys are coming off consecutive wins for the first time in 2023 after disposing of the Sydney Roosters and St George Illawarra in the past fortnight.

Four competition points in two weeks has Payten's club just two points out of the top eight after previously staring down the barrel with a 3-6 record and their finals hopes teetering.

North Queensland will be bolstered by the return of some heavy hitters in the next fornight including powerful edge forward Luciano Leilua, who is expected to play his first game of 2023 off the bench against his former club Wests Tigers.

Also, skipper Jason Taumalolo could be back in round 13 against Parramatta after going under the knife to fix a meniscal injury while booming Kiwi Griffin Neame is also angling for round 13 to boost their pack.

Combine that with new mid-season recruits Semi Valemei and Sam McIntyre, and Payten believes the camp has come exactly at the right time.

"Yeah, I think it has," he told reporters on Friday.

"After a scratchy start and us fighting hard to get where we are at the moment, a week away to connect and spend a bit of time together as a team with a couple of new guys that have come into the squad ... this little period away together in my eyes is a chance to galvanise the team."

But it is Leilua's late inclusion that has eased Payten's concerns after watching the 26-year-old terrorise his starting side for the better half of six months.

Leilua has not played since last year after domestic violence-related charges pertaining to an incident in October were dropped against him on Thursday.

He was cleared to return to the NRL and the Cowboys have added him to the reserves list. Payten is eager to have him back.

"It's been difficult to watch him carve us up in the Renegades team week after week," Payten added.

"I'm expecting him to play the bulk of the game but wherever and however we work out the rotation he'll play a good chunk of it."

Saturday's clash at Leichardt Oval will be a milestone 200th NRL game for Tigers halfback Luke Brooks.

He is the second player in as many weeks to bring up an appearance milestone against North Queensland after Ben Hunt registered his 300th game in round 11.

The Tigers have won only two of their past nine games at Leichhardt Oval.