Cowboys work on defence to break drought

Defensive specialist Jacob Lillyman is tipping North Queensland's NRL drought will break against Parramatta on Saturday night following a week of "tweaking things at training".

"Nobody's panicking," said the defensive ironman.

"We've tweaked a few things at training and for whatever reason we haven't been going that well.

"It's not panic stations, we know there's enough talent within the team to turn things around and we think we can do that this weekend.

"The whole group was feeling a bit down after the first three performances but we've trained really well this week and there's a good feeling within the group."

Lillyman said the players knew their fans were disappointed in the club's winless start.

"There pretty passionate supporters up here and the success we've had in past season they expect so much from us.

"When we don't perform up to standard they let us know and rightly so because they're the ones paying money to come and watch us play week in and week out."

Lillyman said steps had been taken at training to remedy some "silly errors" and harden up the defensive structure after an unacceptable 43 missed tackles against a rampant Brisbane last weekend.

"That's schoolboy stuff, not what you'd expect from professionals," said a candid Lillyman who could not be held responsible for the 36-2 scoreline after ripping through 31 tackles in 39 minutes of action.

North Queensland have leaked more than 100 points in three games while their attack is averaging just 10 points.

Parramatta haven't won at Diary Farmers since 2000 but, with the Cowboys' confidence down almost as much as their form, they may not get a better chance.

Their cause has been helped considerably by the withdrawal of attacking genius Matt Bowen (knee) putting even more pressure on skipper Johnathan Thurston to spark the Cowboys attack.

Either two game veteran Obe Geia or John Williams will slot in at fullback.

Eels hooker Mark Riddell appears to have won his fitness battle with a rib injury although rookie rake Matt Keating is on standby.

The X factor if the game is close and tense may not be a player but rookie referee Bernard Sutton whose inexperience under pressure could be tested by the parochial Townsville crowd.