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As the nib Newcastle Knights finalise preparations in Townville, forward Josh Starling believes the key to a win over the North Queensland Cowboys will be grinding through the middle.

“That is what we have been doing the last couple of weeks, we’ve been getting run down towards the end of the game through the middle,” he said.

“Teams have been taking us through the middle so we really need to muscle up there, run hard and keep doing our jobs.”

While the Cowboys will be without Johnathan Thurston, Lachlan Coote and Jake Granville, the side still has plenty of danger men across the park.

“They are a great club with a lot of depth which is why they are so good… but we are also coming into a time where we’re playing good footy,” Starling said.

“Minus their stars they are going to be more vulnerable, but we’ve just got to keep doing what we’ve been doing the last couple of weeks.”

The match in Townsville will also see the Knights without captain Trent Hodkinson.

“It was a coaching staff decision,” commented Starling.

“Trent is a professional, he’s played Origin and grand finals so he knows what he needs to do and I’m sure he’ll be back in no time.

“I like playing with Hokko (Trent Hodkinson), he’s been really good to me since I’ve been at the Club and he’s got a lot of experience, a lot of game experience and is definitely someone we need to have around.”

The Knights take on the Cowboys at 1300SMILES Stadium on Saturday, kick-off is at 5.30pm.