Cowboys roster still not settled
The NRL season is more than two months old and North Queensland are no closer to finalising a consistent 17-man unit, with the halfback and hooker jerseys still to be claimed.
Unveiling the team to take on Brisbane this weekend, coach Paul Green announced that former Dragon Cameron King will make his club debut, while fill-in halfback Ray Thompson earned himself another week following last round's convincing win over Parramatta.
King will be the fourth Cowboy in just nine rounds to step into the interchange utility role, replacing Anthony Mitchell who lasted just 15 minutes in his latest foray in the top grade.
Tipped as a likely first-option hooker in the pre-season, the injury-plagued King was out of action for the first month of competition with a knee complaint, slowly working his way back to fitness with Cairns-based Northern Pride in the Intrust Super Cup over the past three weeks.
"He's pretty tricky with the ball. He likes to get out and bring his forwards onto the footy, so hopefully he will be another point of attack for us and add some spark off the bench," Green said.
"It's not a case that I wasn't happy with Anthony Mitchell, it's just a case of wanting to see what Cameron can do for us in terms of his ball-playing."
While King finally gets his chance as a Cowboy, he will have to go through incumbent hooker Rory Kostjasyn, who took the position from Thompson in Round 3.
"Rory has been in great form for us. He's been playing consistently well," Green said.
"Those guys are all different players in their own right, so it depends on the type of game we need at the time depending on who we play [at hooker]."
Thompson, on the other hand, had all but given up the prospect of wearing the No.7 and was not even in the conversation when North Queensland re-signed fellow Townsville junior Robert Lui last year.
"Ray got his opportunity against Parramatta and took it," Green said.
"For Rob, it's the same as what I expect from everyone else [who didn't make the cut], he's got to fight his way back into the team. I want to see some fight from him to make his way back."
In other team news, Gavin Cooper returns from a knee injury to replace Joel Reithmuller in the back row.
Meanwhile Tariq Sims has been included in the run-on side, defying rumours he will miss a week after suffering an ankle injury in Sunday's City v Country clash.
"He's slightly strained an ankle ligament. It's not too bad, it's not like a high ankle sprain or anything like that so if we look after him in the next few days he should be all right," Green said.
"Hopefully Tariq got a lift out of playing for Country, I thought he played well. He's been in good form for us and we will certainly need our best players for the big game on Friday night."