Cowboys vow to overcome ‘ unlucky 13’ setback
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