Hooker Payne, who is due to retire at the end of the season, has undergone surgery on his knee after limping from the field in the preliminary final against Brisbane.
But the 29-year-old could make a surprise return if North Queensland are able to beat Manly and Melbourne to book a place in the Grand Final
“A lot of the swelling has gone down so he’s staying at home to try and get it right,” coach Neil Henry told the Cowboys’ official website.
“There’s a chance he could be right in a couple of weeks if we make the grand final.”
The Cowboys head to Sydney for the clash with Manly at Allianz Stadium full of confidence on the back of five straight wins.
“It will be great for the boys, for all of us really as a club, as we head down south,” he said.