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Life after Thurston thanks to other JT: NQ

The "other JT" will ensure there is life after Johnathan Thurston at North Queensland, stand-in skipper Gavin Cooper says.

After witnessing the barnstorming lock's NRL finals heroics Cooper believes long-term signing Jason Taumalolo will inspire players to come to the Cowboys years after future Immortal Thurston's 2019 retirement.

The reigning Dally M medallist was at his inspirational best as the Cowboys upset Cronulla 15-14 in extra time in last week's elimination final, ending the Sharks' title defence.

The hulking Kiwi international ran a staggering 259m, made eight tackle busts and bulldozed over for a game-breaking try to ensure North Queensland became the first eighth-placed team to make the semi-finals under the current system.

The injury-hit Cowboys have again been written off ahead of Saturday night's knockout semi-final against Parramatta at ANZ Stadium with Thurston and co-captain Matt Scott sidelined for the season.

But Cooper believes Taumalolo will ensure success at the Cowboys long after Thurston is sidelined for good.

Taumalolo, 24, signed an unprecedented 10-year, $10 million Cowboys deal in March.

"JT (Thurston) will leave a massive hole but there is life after JT in North Queensland," Cooper told Fox Sports' NRL 360.

"The stability of signing Jase for such a long time will ensure people will want to come up and play with Jase, just like young players wanted to come up and play with JT.

"So there is life after JT."

And plenty of life left in Taumalolo, Cooper warns.

The Queensland second-rower believes Taumalolo is better than when he shared last year's Dally M Medal with Melbourne's Cooper Cronk.

"His game has gone to another level," he said.

"After he won the Dally M I said I thought he had another couple of gears and I still think he is running in fifth, there is still one to go."

Besides Taumalolo, Cooper says there was no secret as to why North Queensland have emerged as finals contenders with four-time Dally M Medallist Thurston sidelined.

"I think a lot of that came down to Johnno missing one or two games here and there so the team really didn't know how to adapt without him - no one knew who was steering the ship," Cooper said of their early woeful record without Thurston.

"Now that he has been out for an extended period our game has changed as a whole, a couple of different guys have stood up at different times - the whole team has taken on the burden of JT not being there."

© AAP 2017