North Queensland Cowboys veteran halfback Chad Townsend believes the club's best football is still ahead of them after a shaky period of form.

Todd Payten's side, who made a preliminary final in 2022, had a dreadful 2023 campaign, missing the top eight.

They appeared to be turning things aroud early on in the new season though, winning their first three games on the trot against the Dolphins, Newcastle Knights and St George Illawarra Dragons.

It has all gone pear-shaped from there though, with the Townsville-based side collapsing to win only one of their last seven, and losing all of their last five.

Despite the poor run of form - which has left the under pressure Payten scrambling for answers - Townsend, speaking to Fox Sports, said he believes the club's best form is still ahead of them, with stringing 80 minutes together a major part of the problem.

“It's been a bit up and down if I'm honest. Started the season really well winning three in-a-row, then we went into a little bit of a patchy period,” Townsend told the publication.

“Then obviously we've lost a couple on the trot now, so I think it's been a bit of a mixed bag. We are yet to piece together a full 80 minutes which is frustrating.

“But I'm optimistic in the fact that our best football in still ahead of us, obviously we'd rather find that sooner rather than later.”

Townsend said injuries have played their part in the Cowboys' horror run of results over the last seven weeks, and that their defence simply hasn't been good enough.

“We had that cohesion, since then I know we used a lot more players last year and I know we've used plenty this year," Townsend said.

“I'd say probably our defence was in much better knick that season [during 2022], probably comparing to some of the games this year I don't think we've been up to standard."

The Cowboys take on the South Sydney Rabbitohs on Saturday evening during Magic Round.

South Sydney have been potentially the only bigger disappointment in the competition than the Cowboys over the last 18 months, with the Redfern-based side missing the finals after leading the competition in Round 11 last year, and only winning one of their first nine this season.

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