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Sledge pledge on Chicko

NORTH Queensland Cowboys hooker Ray Thompson has cheekily warned former teammate and Penrith Panthers rake James Segeyaro to expect sledging to come his way this weekend.

Thompson believes the Cowboys have nothing to fear from the 84kg ball of energy that is "Chicko", who left North Queensland last season for a three-year deal with the Panthers.

Thompson spoke of his delight at playing against his good friend Segeyaro in Sunday's away game against the Panthers.

"I will (sledge him) ... hopefully I get in a few scrums with him too and have a bit of a chat to him," Thompson said.

"I was talking to him the other day and it's going to be really good - I'm really excited to be playing him."

Segeyaro and Thompson went through the Cowboys under-20s system together and play each other for the first time since Segeyaro's departure from Townsville.

James Segeyaro 'Chiko'
Thompson has been named to start in a largely unchanged Cowboys' team, the only shift coming from the return of utility Rory Kostjasyn to the bench in place of Scott Moore, who returns to Queensland Cup.

Last week's first-grade debutant Kyle Feldt retains his right wing spot, with Ashley Graham calling an early retirement yesterday.

Segeyaro has provided plenty of spark for the Panthers thanks to his livewire style and could have lifted a Cowboys' team that often appeared void of any fighting spirit this season.

But Thompson is not bitter to see his old mate in a Penrith jersey.

"I think he's up there with one of the buys of the season and he's loving life down there, and him and his partner are really settled," Thompson said.

The Cowboys must win their remaining five games of the NRL season to have any chance of making the top eight, and three of those matches are at home.

Sunday's game is the second-last time North Queensland will play away from home, with the other road match taking place against Cronulla in three weeks' time.

Thompson said the pressure had eased on his teammates, with most observers writing off finals chances.

"I think it's long-odds for us to make the eight and it feels like the shackles are off a little bit," Thompson said.

"The boys just played a bit of carefree footy (against South Sydney) and we didn't change anything ... our structures are still the same.

"One good performance doesn't make a year, so we just need to start showing the same attitude every game from now on."

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