Middle man returns
DESPITE signing with North Queensland for 2018, the only players Jordan McLean will be out to impress in Friday night’s NRL clash are his Storm teammates.
The 25y e a r - o l d prop will head north on a threeyear deal but says he isn’t t h i n k i n g about anything past this season just yet.
Returning last round from a long stint on the sidelines with first a fractured cheekbone suffered in round 14 and then hamstring trouble, McLean ( above) said he still had plenty to prove to Melbourne before his departure.
“Every game I just try and do my best, and against the Cowboys it will be no different,” McLean said yesterday.
“I’m here until the end of the year and I love Melbourne Storm and I’m looking to finish the season strong.”
McLean was named 18th man for the Kangaroos’ Anzac Test and then the same for the NSW side for Origin I before injury cruelled his chances of a call- up.
Australia coach Mal Meninga said he wanted to see more game time from McLean before the World Cup, but the powerhouse forward hasn’t let himself become frustrated over some missed opportunities.
“I can’t control getting injured or the game time but I can control going out there and doing my best,” McLean said.
“I’m proud to be on the cusp of making my debut for them so hopefully I can keep building my performance and in the near future I can get a run with the teams.” NORTH Queensland tackling machine Shaun Fensom is set to make a timely return from injury as the Cowboys host the Melbourne Storm in a blockbuster clash at 1300SMILES Stadium on Friday night.
Fensom has been playing through the pain of a rib cartilage injury, but he was a late withdrawal from last weekend’s 22- 16 loss to the Roosters in Sydney, with young prop Braden Uele handed his NRL debut.
The Cowboys have been the league’s best defensive team the past two months, but they sorely missed Fensom’s tireless work ethic through the middle against the Roosters as they blew a 16- 6 halftime lead.
Fensom trained with the team yesterday, but coach Paul Green said the workhorse forward would still have to get through some contact tomorrow before taking his place against the Storm.
“Having the week off, he hasn’t done a lot of contact so we really need to test that out before we put him into a game, especially against Melbourne,” Green said.
“Defensively he tightens us up through the middle so that’s important. The Storm are very good through the middle there. He’ll be a welcome addition for us.”
The Cowboys are on a fourgame losing streak against the Storm, who justified their tag as premiership favourites to thump Manly 40- 6 in Melbourne last weekend.
Storm captain Cameron Smith has been particularly brilliant, having a hand in four tries against the Sea Eagles in his 350th NRL appearance.
Green had high praise for Smith, but he urged his players to match the veteran’s intensity or risk seeing their hopes of a top- four finish slip away.
“He’s probably been in career- best form and I think they’re the team to beat at this stage so we’ll need to go up a level,” Green said.
“( Smith) has been playing consistently well and he really took hold of that third Origin game and has done the same at club level ever since.
“Whether or not they need to go up another level, I’m not sure. They’re playing pretty good footy, but it’s a big game for us and we’re looking forward to it.”
Star fullback Billy Slater ( concussion) will return for Melbourne, but in- form fiveeighth Cameron Munster is out with an ankle injury.
Green admitted it would make his job easier with Munster on the sidelines, but he said the Cowboys needed to keep the focus on themselves.
“It would be good, but you can’t worry too much about whether or not those guys are out,” Green said.
“It doesn’t change too much about how we play. I know it won’t change how they play. We’ve just got to focus on what we control and that’s our prep.”
NRL Cowboys squad: 1 Lachlan Coote, Kyle Feldt, 3 Justin O’Neill, 4 Kane Linnett, 5 Antonio Winterstein, 6 Te Maire Martin, 7 Michael Morgan, 8 John Asiata, 9 Jake Granville, 10 Scott Bolton, 11 Gavin Cooper ( c) 12 Ethan Lowe 13 Jason Taumalolo 14 Ben Hampton 15 Coen Hess 16 Shaun Fensom, 17 Corey Jensen 18 Braden Uele 19 Kalyn Ponga 20 Sam Hoare 21 Javid Bowen.
SORE SPOT: Shaun Fensom of the Cowboys reacts after injuring his ribs against the New Zealand Warriors in round 20.