The success of Payne Haas and Jason Taumalolo through the middle looms as a deciding factor in Friday night's NRL derby between Brisbane and North Queensland.
The Cowboys prevailed in their round nine clash in Townsville when a Taumalolo try levelled the scores in the dying stages before Valentine Holmes kicked the game-winning field goal.
Eleven rounds on and while both sides are all but out of finals contention, their coaches maintain there'll still be plenty of sting in the clash.
Their plans for victory are simple: shut down each team's most dominant ball runner.
For Brisbane, Haas has been a bright spark in their engine room this year, averaging 169 running metres per game off 15 hit-ups while his defensive tenacity has been the standard at Red Hill.
His fine form warranted another NSW Origin selection and has also linked him with a mega 10-year deal to remain at Red Hill as a one-club man.
Cowboys coach Todd Payten says his side will need to up their intensity as they look to contain the bullocking 21-year-old.
"You've got to be really aggressive, he's their forward leader. He'll be looking to take charge of that young pack and he's playing some really good footy," Payten said on the eve of the clash.
"It's going to help our cause if we can limit the impact he has in the game."
In comparison, a man who's already on a 10-year deal at the Cowboys is front and centre of the Broncos' defensive plans.
Taumalolo may not be blistering the stats sheet as he did last year, but his damaging ball-running is the attacking platform the Cowboys build off each round in the NRL.
Injuries have hampered the 28-year-old in 2021 and his run metres have significantly dropped off from 207 metres per game in 2020 to 156 this season.
"He's certainly a player that's come up on our radar this week, he's a very talented player," Walters said.
"And he's been a really good player for them for a long time.
"We've got some plans around trying to maintain the damage he may cause."
But in reflecting on last week's close loss to competition heavyweights Penrith, Walters added that their focus remains on their own improvement.
"A lot of this week after our performances the last couple of weeks - a lot of focus (has been) on our team, both in defensive and attack," he said.
"Working together, making sure we get our line speed right and also identifying their key players.
"No different this week, lots of things going on in our world but one thing's for sure is there'll be plenty of feeling in Friday night's game."
Australian Associated Press