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Cleary's call for calm in crucial NQ clash

Penrith coach Ivan Cleary has implored his side to take a better hold of their emotions during a visit to North Queensland that's crucial for the NRL club's top-eight hopes.

The Panthers are ninth on percentage after a 24-12 loss to Brisbane last weekend that Cleary said lacked composure, not effort.

Emotions will be running high on Friday night after the mid-week revelation that Cowboys great Matt Scott was recovering in hospital after suffering a mild stroke.

Cleary hopes his men can handle those external forces, having labelled the side's first-half effort against the Broncos "immature".

"We've had a lot of important games recently ... but this game is definitely that," he said.

"Last week we had a lot of emotion, lot of energy, but it was misplaced.

"We lost our way, I think the emotions took over ... we learnt some lessons out of that and have to make sure we get that right."

The Cowboys have lost eight of their last nine games while Penrith have lost three of their last four to be in danger of missing the finals for the first time since 2015.

Penrith will plan on wrecking ball Jason Taumalolo (foot) returning from injury, although Cowboys coach Paul Green said they'd take "no silly risks" as he manages a painful plantar fascial tear.

Green expects his players to be inspired by Scott's health scare as the former Australian and Queensland State of Origin forward remained in a Brisbane hospital.

"All the players are dealing with it in their own way," Green said.

"But I'd like to think some players might find a bit of motivation out of that, but whether or not that happens we won't know until the game."

Cleary is bracing for it too and expects the Townsville faithful to will on their 15th-placed team in what's been an emotional week.

"Matt's a much-loved figure up here, well respected guy and I'm sure they'll be looking to put in a good performance for him and the club and fans," Cleary said.

"To hear that news was quite shocking really; I just hope everything is going okay for him."

STATS THAT MATTER

* The Cowboys' 15.4 points per game this season is their fewest in a campaign since 1998 (15ppg).

* Seventeen of the Panthers' 55 tries have come from kicks this season, the highest percentage of any team (30.9).

* The Panthers have missed the most tackles this season (29.4 per game) but the Cowboys have busted the fewest (18.7).

© AAP 2019

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