Sims commits to fill Scott's shoes
Matt Scott's Friday night masterclass against Brisbane not only helped the Cowboys gain two competition points and a spot back in the top eight, but it reminded the club of what they will be missing in two weeks' time when State of Origin sides come knocking.
While the go-forward of Scott and James Tamou and class of Johnathan Thurston will desert the squad for games against the Raiders and Dragons during Origin, back-up prop and Fijian captain Ashton Sims is confident of himself and others stepping up to fill the void.
"I most certainly put some responsibility on myself when those guys leave. I'm one of the older players in the team now, one of the more experienced guys, so I'm ready to step up and lead by example," Sims said.
"Matty (Scott) and Jim (Tamou) will leave a hole but I tell you what, we have guys who are ready to go and once Origin comes around we're all going to be ready to do it, I guarantee."
An accomplished NRL veteran nearing his 30s and a senior of the Cowboys forward pack, Sims says that he can't help but admire and actually look up to the younger Scott and Tamou.
"I just look at those guys and think, Far out, they are just one-in-a-million players. Matty does that week in and week out, they both do. It's incredible really," Sims said, reflecting on his Origin-bound teammates.
"They are as tough as an old leather boot. It's that willingness to compete – it doesn't matter what happens to them, they will keep going hard all day. It's something I aspire to and I'm older than both of them but I look up to them and see what they do and I try to replicate it as best I can."
Another possible hurdle for the depleted pack could come in the form of the No.9 jersey. With the production of forwards so reliant on the ball supply from the hooker, the rate of acclimation for recently acquired hooker-in-waiting Cameron King will prove that much more vital in the coming weeks.
"He's meshing with the guys pretty well. He's only new to the club and he plays a good style of football," Sims said.
"He's a tough hooker who plays forward out of the ruck. I thought he did really well for his first dig with us and I think he's got more of that to come."
Origin won't just be a blow for the Cowboys big-men, with the imminent departure of another of Friday night's heroes, five-eighth Johnathan Thurston, meaning more responsibility will be thrust upon youngsters Robert Lui and Ray Thompson.
Both have been used as Thurston's halves partner in recent weeks and Lui for one would welcome the opportunity to form their own combination in the superstar five-eighth's absence.
"'Ray-Ray' is my best friend. I back him and he backs me. If we do happen to be halves partners during the Origin period that's something I would definitely look forward to," Lui said post-game.
After being dropped to the Intrust Super Cup for Round 7, Lui was rushed into replace Thompson who was a late withdrawal due to injury. Thompson had not fully recovered from a medial ligament tear sustained against Parramatta two weeks ago, handing Lui an opportunity to impress coach Paul Green.
"I felt I played all right tonight. Defensively I could still get better, along with my kicking game. But I thought my talk was good, I talked well with all the boys on my edge," Lui said.
"Sometimes I don't talk enough on the field and with last-tackle options I could demand the ball a bit more. We tend to look to 'Johno' (Thurston) a lot, but myself, 'Morgo' (Michael Morgan) and the hookers have to step up there.
"One thing the coaches want me to do is actually lose my voice and get a bit croaky after games. You see the great players like 'Thursto' and Darren Lockyer, they never shut up on the field."
When asked post-game about the possibility of sending four of his best troops to Origin, Green saw the period as a constructive time for player development, saying it will give the up-and-comers much needed exposure to the top grade.
"We have a good team bond going and a good team feeling and team spirit and it will give a young guy an opportunity," Green said.
"We have some good young players coming through. I think Ethan Lowe showed [against Brisbane] what he's capable of and it gives a young guy an opportunity to show what he can do."