North Queensland standoff Michael Morgan says the Cowboys' finals equation remains the same, despite suffering a 16-10 NRL qualifying final loss to Melbourne.

The Cowboys will regroup and host Brisbane in Townsville on Friday in an elimination semifinal, still requiring three victories to secure back-to-back premierships.

"We came into the finals series needing three wins and that's still what we need," Morgan said.

"We'll take it one game at a time. It sounds boring but, at this time of the year, that's what we have to do ... it's do-or-die."


Morgan tipped the semifinal to be another tightly fought encounter.

"It just comes from the mutual respect for each other, I suppose," Morgan said.

"We know a lot of their players and we've played in big games against each other, so it brings the best out of both teams."

Having overcome heartbreak and hardship before, Canberra are backing themselves to do it again when they get a second crack at the premiership next weekend.

The Raiders will host Penrith in a sudden-death semifinal, with the winner earning a place in the grand final qualifier and the loser eliminated.

They were forced to play their chance card after losing 16-14 to Cronulla at GIO Stadium on Saturday night.

It was their first defeat in three months, having won all 10 previous games since June 9.

Coach Ricky Stuart was quick to tell his men - 11 of whom had never before played in an NRL final - not to dwell on the loss, labelling it an invaluable experience for a side destined for more playoffs.

"We've got to get into a really healthy frame of mind, fix up our bumps and bruises and get back into routine," he said.

But it might not be as easy as it sounds.

Star hooker Josh Hodgson is in serious doubt, having injured his ankle early in the second half of the tense clash.

There's also uncertainty around five-eighth Blake Austin, who is still recovering from a broken hand.