Cow­boys vow to over­come ‘ un­lucky 13’ set­back

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

IT’S the “un­lucky 13” ca­pa­ble of test­ing most first grade teams which shows the true depth of the Cow­boys’ un­prece­dented in­jury cri­sis.

The Townsville Bul­letin has com­piled a full run- on side of the club’s in­jured brigade which in­cludes a host of rep­re­sen­ta­tive play­ers.

In all, 14 of the Cow­boys’ top 25 squad, the ma­jor­ity of their salary cap, are busted or un­der in­jury clouds be­fore Satur­day’s crunch home clash with bat­tling Cronulla.

The list of side­lined stars is so long no room could be found in the start­ing 13 for util­ity Ray Thomp­son, who this week an­nounced he will be re­tir­ing at the end of the year due to a chronic knee in­jury.

Af­ter Satur­day’s 24- 16 loss at Pen­rith where they lost cen­tre Justin O’Neill ( dis­lo­cated el­bow) po­ten­tially for the sea­son and half­back Michael Mor­gan ( con­cus­sion), the Cow­boys have lost three straight.

If O’Neill’s 2017 is over, eight Cow­boys will not be sighted again this year.

Their fi­nals spot is now in jeop­ardy given they have dropped to eighth, ahead of nine- placed St Ge­orge Illawarra by just two points.

A loss to the Sharks could see them drop out of the eight but the ca­su­alty ward high­lights the guts and char­ac­ter the Cow­boys have showed to re­main in the fi­nals hunt at all.

Mor­gan was ex­tremely groggy when taken from the field just be­fore half­time at Pen­rith af­ter cop­ping a knock when at­tempt­ing a tackle on Dallin Watene- Zelez­niak. The Aus­tralia and Queens­land star will have to pass con­cus­sion pro­to­col to play against Cronulla.

For­ward Shaun Fen­som ( knee) and full­back Lach­lan Coote ( knee/ an­kle) both played on in a match where the Cow­boys played with 15 men for more than 40 min­utes.

Back rower Gavin Cooper ( calf) and winger An­to­nio Win­ter­stein ( ham­string) are both un­likely to be fit to face the Sharks af­ter hurt­ing them­selves in last week­end’s loss to Mel­bourne.

The good news is if Mor­gan and Coote fail to prove their fit­ness, the Cow­boys have able re­place­ments in young guns Te Maire Martin and Ka­lyn Ponga.

For­mer Pan­ther Martin missed the clash against his old team with a mi­nor knee in­jury, but he is a chance to play this week.

Javid Bowen is favourite to shift from wing to cen­tre to re­place O’Neill, with Gideon Gela- Mosby a can­di­date to re­turn on the flank.

Cow­boys coach Paul Green must surely be one of the fron­trun­ners for Dally M coach of the year for in­still­ing re­silience in his side which has lost it few ad­mir­ers, es­pe­cially given co- cap­tains Matt Scott and Johnathan Thurston are out for the sea­son.

Cow­boys wreck­ing ball Ja­son Tau­malolo and prop Scott Bolton are shoul­der­ing huge re­spon­si­bil­ity in the mid­dle third and both ad­mit­ted it was the most crip­pling in­jury toll they had wit­nessed in their ca­reers.

“We haven’t had much luck with in­juries but I guess it’s just one of those years where we can’t get a break,” Tau­malolo said.

“We’re run­ning short lead­ers, they seem to drop­ping like flies.

“We had play­ers play­ing out of po­si­tion, but I’m proud of the boys for stay­ing in the fight.”

Bolton lost 5kg in the build up to the game through ill­ness, but still man­aged to run for 154 me­tres against Pen­rith.

“It’s a pretty tough time for us at the mo­ment but if we keep turn­ing up for each other, I’m sure we’ll find our­selves in the fi­nals,” Bolton said.

In the un­der- 20s clash, a hat- trick from full­back Ka­lyn Ponga guided the Cow­boys to a 40- 16 win.

It was the side’s fourth straight win to re­main in the top four on the lad­der. of be

GROGGY: Michael Mor­gan is taken from the field for a head in­jury as­sess­ment dur­ing the first half of the Cow­boys loss to the NRL Pen­rith Pan­thers at Pep­per Sta­dium on Satur­day.

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