Cow­boys face lead­er­ship void as in­juries take heavy toll The cap­tain’s curse

Townsville Bulletin - - SPORT - JON TUX­WORTH jonathon. tux­worth@ news. com. au

AVOID black un­der lad­ders mir­rors.

That could be the ad­vice for who­ever is cho­sen to lead North Queens­land out at Pen­rith on Sat­ur­day as the ‘ cap­tain’s curse’ threat­ens to put a span­ner in the works of their sea­son.

With co- skip­pers Johnathan Thurston and Matt Scott out for the year, Gavin Cooper lasted less than a minute in Fri­day’s home game cats, and walk­ing bro­ken against Mel­bourne be­fore his calf gave way, while winger An­to­nio Win­ter­stein also suf­fered a ham­string in­jury.

It leaves a big ex­pe­ri­ence void for the sixth- placed Cow­boys who have a hand­ful of teams, in­clud­ing the Pan­thers, nip­ping at their heels.

Thurston missed a month with his calf in­jury ear­lier this year and like the half­back, Cooper suf­fered his in a non con­tact sit­u­a­tion.

Five- eighth Te Maire Martin is in doubt to play a Pan­thers team he left just a few weeks ago af­ter leav­ing the ground with his knee iced up.

Michael Mor­gan and Scott Bolton ap­pear to be the ma­jor con­tenders to take the cap- taincy du­ties while Cooper is side­lined.

Bolton did the job for the first time against Can­berra in round 17 when North Queens­land’s State of Ori­gin play­ers, in­clud­ing Mor­gan, were unavail­able.

Mor­gan has al­ready taken on more lead­er­ship as the main play­maker with Thurston out, but said he would step up as cap­tain if coach Paul Green takes that op­tion.

“If they wanted me to I would, but there’s a few guys there,” he said.

“’ Bolts’ is one, Jase ( Tau­malolo) is an­other. Those two have been great lead­ers on the field and I think one of those guys would han­dle it pretty well. Coops is a great leader and a mas­sive talker, and every­one knows how im­por­tant he is to our team as a whole.

“They ( Win­ter­stein and Cooper) are two very ex­pe­ri­enced play­ers on that ( left) edge.

“It’ll be a chal­lenge again but un­for­tu­nately it’s not any­thing we’re not used to.”

The Cow­boys’ fit Queens­land play­ers Mor­gan and Coen Hess will use the long turn­around to take a few days off in the lead- up to the Pan­thers match, which could en­hance Bolton’s chances of be­ing cap­tain.

How­ever Bolton suf­fered an el­bow in­jury in the first half against the Storm, but man­aged to fight through the pain and re­turn af­ter the break.

Green branded his team’s ef­fort as “un­be­liev­ably coura­geous” af­ter the match and full­back Lach­lan Coote is con­fi­dent they will hold off the chas­ing pack to make fi­nals if they main­tain that com­mit­ment.

“We’ve been tested through the year with in­juries and to lose an­other cap­tain, what’s go­ing on there?” he said.

“They ( Mor­gan and Bolton) have been out­stand­ing for us all year ( but) I don’t know who will want the cap­taincy next week.”

WILLING: Cow­boys half­back Michael Mor­gan is tack­led high by Mel­bourne Storm’s Cur­tis Scott at 1300SMILES Sta­dium on Fri­day night. Pic­ture: WESLEY MONTS

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