The arrival of Valentine Holmes may have lifted North Queensland's spirits but Josh McGuire admits he still misses retired Cowboys great Matt Scott ahead of the 2020 NRL season.
North Queensland enforcer McGuire said ex-Cronulla flyer Holmes' signing on a lucrative six-year deal had put a spring in the Cowboys' steps after two frustrating seasons for the club.
He said Holmes' injection along with Kiwi international Esan Marsters' signing on a three year contract ensured the Cowboys had the firepower to taste finals football for the first time since 2017.
"It's exciting times for the Cowboys. To have the opportunity to bring in a strike weapon like Val is great but also Esan Marsters - he's a world class centre," McGuire told AAP.
"If we can keep all our guys on the paddock including those additions I hope to be part of something special in 2020.
"But we are a very hungry group. Whether we did or didn't get Val, those expectations were always going to be high.
"We have been very disappointed with the last couple of years.
"The expectation has always been to finish the year in the top four and give ourselves every opportunity to be there at the big dance at the end of the year."
As good as their roster looks, McGuire said they would never be able to find someone quite like ex-Test prop Scott.
McGuire still misses Scott who at 34 was forced to cut short his 268-game Cowboys career and retire after suffering a mild stroke in mid-August.
Scott is expected to make a full recovery and eventually return to the Cowboys on their support staff.
"You don't really replace someone like Matt Scott," McGuire said.
"I have been fortunate enough to play alongside Matty at the highest level, just his presence at the club is a massive loss.
"It's obviously not the way Matt wanted to go out but that's football, and he's a warrior of the game and getting better every day.
"But we have got a good bunch of young fellas who will get an opportunity now."
Australian Associated Press