Mid­dle man re­turns

Townsville Bulletin - - SPORT - TRENT SLATTER trent. slatter@ news. com. au

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.

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