North Queensland’s injury crisis has worsened in a sluggish loss to the Sea Eagles with two key backs facing stints on the sidelines.
Origin and Test centre Justin O’Neill left the field in the first half with a hamstring injury and did not return while his partner in crime Kyle Feldt battled on bravely through an ankle complaint in the final half-hour.
The pair will be assessed again on Sunday but if they are unable to overcome the complaints they will join a Cowboys injury ward that already includes fullback Lachlan Coote and winger Antonio Winterstein.
Co-captain Matt Scott is also out for the season with an ACL injury and Dally M medallist Jason Taumalolo is suspended but despite a tough night at the office Cowboys coach Paul Green wasn’t out to make excuses for their 30-8 loss in front of their home fans on Saturday night.
“We could use than as an excuse if you wanted but it didn’t seem to worry the Broncs in a tough game on Thursday night,” he said.
“We were probably a little bit flat to be fair and we’ve had two big games but we don’t want to use those as an excuse for very un-Cowboys like performance out there tonight.
“I thought we just lacked a bit of patience and went away from what we do well.
“That’s been one of our strengths, that consistency in how we play but we went away from that in the pressure moments and that’s a disappointing part of the performance.”
Green had little to offer on the extent of Feldt’s ‘sore ankle’ but expected that he would again have to rejig his back line around O’Neill for their trip face an in-form Gold Coast in round four this weekend.
“We’ll worry about that (O’Neill) next week in terms of shuffling the team around,” Green said.
“I think it’s a hamstring but I’m not too sure, I’ve never seen anyone do a hammy when they get spear-tackled so I’m not sure what happened.
“Any injury you get in the backs during a game is always tough because you don’t normally carry backs on the interchange bench so that’s why a guy like Ben Hampton’s utility value is really good.”
Young gun Kalyn Ponga was kept quiet in his first NRL start at fullback but he may get a chance to impress again against the Titans on the Gold Coast as regular starter Coote is still recovering from a ruptured calf.