The emotional JT speech inspiring the Cowboys
REMEMBER this feeling.
That was the message Johnathan Thurston delivered to the Cowboys just minutes after last year's grand final loss to Melbourne.
Thurston sat in the coaches box at ANZ Stadium recovering from a shoulder reconstruction as Melbourne thrashed North Queensland 34-6 in the NRL premiership decider.
As the Storm celebrated after the final siren, Thurston and fellow co-captain Matt Scott rallied their troops on the field to deliver a stirring speech.
"JT said 'remember this feeling for next year - we never want to feel like this ever again'," lock Jason Taumalolo revealed.
"It was more motivational. That's what the boys have been using going into this year.
"Last year wasn't the way we wanted to finish. We had a good finals campaign but to end it the way we did wasn't good enough for our standards."
The Cowboys and Storm will clash at AAMI Park tonight in an NRL fixture for the first time since last year's decider.
North Queensland has made a solid start to the season, beating Cronulla in Round 1 before losing a thrilling derby to the Broncos last week.
The Cowboys are considered one of the leading contenders for this year's premiership following the return of Thurston and Scott from injury and the addition of ex-Storm prop Jordan McLean to a red-hot forward pack.
And the pain of last year's grand final defeat is still fresh in their memories.
"I felt like I could have done more and that's disappointing because you don't make grand finals very often," playmaker Te Maire Martin said.
"They (Scott and Thurston) said to take the game and use it as motivation for this year.
"We had to remember the feeling because it wasn't the best. The boys were pretty down.
"We had to find the drive for that not to happen again. The boys will be thinking about that."
The Cowboys were somewhat lucky to make last year's finals series, let alone the decider.
St George-Illawarra's final round choke saw North Queensland sneak into the top eight and they went on a fairytale run in Sydney, winning three knockout games to quality for the grand final.
Centre Justin O'Neill played in North Queensland's successful 2015 premiership team but that did not make last year's loss any less painful.
"JT told us to really build on how we finished last year," O'Neill said.
"We saw a lot of good things come out of last year and a lot of blokes stepping up.
"How we played at the back end of the season was how we wanted to be seen. It was very resilient and tough.
"That's why it was so disappointing to go down in the grand final.
"He told us to learn from what we had done and build on it going into this year.
"We had to use that feeling as motivation because we didn't want to feel it again.
"That's something players don't forget - it's going to be in the back of your mind."