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Tate excited as Cowboys eye NRL top four
Laine Clark
20:28 AEST Wed Aug 15 2012

Twelve months ago, Brent Tate was contemplating his NRL retirement after battling to return from yet another knee reconstruction.

All the frustration of late 2011 must now seem like a lifetime ago for Tate after helping North Queensland towards a likely second consecutive NRL finals berth.

At 30-years-old, Tate is one of the key veterans the Cowboys will rely upon in what looms as their best shot at matching their 2005 grand final appearance.

But he sounded like an excited teenager as he weighed up the Cowboys' charge toward the NRL finals - starting with Monday night's showdown with St George Illawarra at Wollongong.

"It's just good to be able to play each week. I am enjoying being back - I am having fun with it," Tate said on Wednesday.

It seemed remarkable that the same man had doubted whether he would play in the NRL again - let alone representative footy - just last year.

Tate was the first to admit he was struggling returning for the Cowboys in late 2011 after his third knee reconstruction following similar injuries in 2007 and 2009.

It was enough to break the strongest of spirits - but not Tate.

Not only has Tate been the key to the Cowboys booking another finals campaign, the livewire back was a standout in Queensland's seventh straight State of Origin series win.

Indeed Tate seemed a little taken aback when asked about his troublesome knees on Wednesday.

"I don't really think about it too much," Tate said.

"Actually I am quite surprised with how I feel after Origin. I am feeling fresh and looking forward to this run into the semi-finals.

"I am still enjoying my footy. It's just a good place to be around right now."

Not that Tate - nor North Queensland - is satisfied.

The Cowboys (fifth; 12-9 record) will set themselves up for a top four finish and a genuine title tilt with their regular season finishing with winnable games against St George Illawarra (away), Newcastle (home) and Cronulla (away).

"Everyone wants to be part of semi-final footy and this club demands it and we need to demand it from ourselves," Tate said.

"Because we do have the side that can go deep into semi-finals football. I am really excited about the next few weeks coming up."

Tate hoped North Queensland had set the yardstick with their 52-12 last round romp over the Warriors to snap a worrying two-game losing run.

"All of our senior guys have a job to do. It's about showing the young guys how to win at this time of year," he said.

"It's about confidence with this team but I think we are taking steps in the right direction."