North Queensland will have to take on Cronulla this Saturday without superstar forward Jason Taumalolo thanks to some bone bruising on his knee.
The Tongan star, who started the season in blistering form before the coronavirus shutdown, almost looked human in the first half against the Titans in round three until a destructive second 40 minutes saw him finish the game with 290 run metres (126 post-contact).
Speaking on Tuesday, coach Paul Green confirmed the 27-year-old would be missing this week after suffering the injury in the first half of the 36-6 win over Gold Coast.
“He copped a bit of a whack on the knee early in the game, so he actually played that second stint with it and it just showed up a little bit of bone bruising after the game,” Green said.
“It pulled up sore the next day, so we got a scan as we normally do and it showed a bit of bone bruising there, so we’ll just monitor that over the next little while.”
Green was hopeful the knock would only sideline him for a week but said the nature of the injury made it uncertain.
“Hopefully, we’ll monitor it but with bone bruising you don’t know how long they’re going to take to get better, but fingers crossed it’ll only be a week,” he added.
The injury has forced Green into forward line reshuffle, as well as opening the door for a debutant.
Josh McGuire will replace Taumalolo at lock, Francis Molo has been moved into the starting front-row position and prop Tom Gilbert comes onto the bench for his maiden first-grade appearance.
Gilbert, who doesn’t turn 20 until August, was the Queensland Cup rookie of the year for 2019 and Green expects him to cope with the pressure of the NRL.
“He’s been in our system for a little while now, each time he’s gone up a grade or a step up, whether it be playing Intrust Super Cup or rep footy, he’s always handled the step up really well,” Green said.
“He’s been a real professional for a kid his age, he takes his footy pretty seriously and I’m just really pleased to give him his chance.
“I’m not putting any pressure on him, he deserves his chance and one thing about Tommy is he’ll give us his best effort which is all you can ask.”
Veteran backrower Gavin Cooper has also overcome a calf strain, though he will be eased in off the bench.
Playmaker Michael Morgan is still some weeks away, with Green providing a brief update on the rep star.
“It’s going well, at this stage I don’t want to make too many predictions. Four weeks will be the absolute earliest though,” Green said.
Cowboys team vs. Cronulla
- Valentine Holmes
- Kyle Feldt
- Justin O’Neill
- Esan Marsters
- Ben Hampton
- Scott Drinkwater
- Jake Clifford
- Francis Molo
- Jake Granville
- Jordan McLean (c)
- Mitch Dunn
- Coen Hess
- Josh McGuire
- Reece Robson
- John Asiata
- Tom Gilbert
- Gavin Cooper