The Warriors’ desire has been questioned by their own coach in a bid for improvement against the North Queensland Cowboys.

Warriors coach Matthew Elliott hopes the fuse he lit under his players this week will translate into a stiffened resolve against the North Queensland Cowboys in Townsville.

Elliott stepped outside the usual NRL coach-speak by criticising the desire of his team following a listless second-round loss to St George Illawarra.

“Our will to compete in the game at the moment could be questioned,” he said.

That 31-12 defeat followed an equally disappointing 36-16 loss to the Parramatta Eels and leaves them needing a big form reversal to beat a strong Cowboys side on Saturday.

To end a winless streak in Townsville that dates to 2002, Elliott says they must improve their approach to winning the ruck.

They need to overcome a powerful North Queensland pack built around Kangaroos props James Tamou and Matt Scott, supported by in-form trio Jason Taumalolo, Gavin Cooper and Tariq Sims.

“The Cowboys’ big men expend a lot of energy in attack, so we need to test them on the other side of the ball like they’re going to test us,” Elliott said.

“You certainly can’t be backwards in coming forwards against those guys defensively.

“We need to show up and play with our best mindset. Our best mindset’s an aggressive mindset.”

Elliott has demanded improvement in nearly every department after a start to the season that hasn’t matched their high off-season expectations.

His team had more possession than the Dragons but didn’t execute well on attack, while their defence was prised open too easily at Eden Park, most notably on the last tackle.

“When you defend five plays, the spark can’t finish on the fifth play. It’s got to finish on the sixth.”

Hard-working captain Simon Mannering is expected to play, despite sitting out practice on Tuesday with a foot injury.

The second-rower is poised to equal the record of former prop Steve Price for the most Warriors games as skipper.