O'Neill to move on from 'dud year'
Eighteen months ago he was within reach of a maiden Queensland Origin jersey but Cowboys recruit Justin O'Neill says his primary goal in 2015 is simply getting back to playing NRL on a regular basis.
O'Neill signed a two-year deal with North Queensland just prior to Christmas and wasted no time in familiarising himself with his new surroundings, turning up to training on Monday less than 24 hours after arriving in Townsville.
Brought in as cover for Darius Boyd for Game One of the 2013 Origin Series, O'Neill's 2014 season was cruelled by leg injuries, first a knee injury suffered at the Auckland Nines and then a fractured ankle while playing against the Warriors on Anzac Day.
It kept him to just four appearances with the Storm and a tryless season for the first time since making his debut in Round 14, 2010 and the Townsville-born speedster said he is hoping to put that disappointment behind him at North Queensland.
"From last year I just want to improve on more consistent game time," O'Neill told Cowboys.com.au. "Last year was a dud year for me, I had a fair whack of injuries which put me out for most of the year last year.
"It was a very patchy year playing rugby league so I want to get back, one goal would be to get on the paddock and play some consistent footy."
Despite admitting that starting a pre-season with a new club was a strange feeling after five years in Mebourne, there are some familiar faces to help O'Neill's transition to be a smooth one.
Former Storm teammate Rory Kostjasyn has been at the Cowboys for the past two seasons, Cameron King and Matthew Wright both played alongside O'Neill in the 2010 Junior Kangaroos team, while younger brother Samsen has been signed by the Townsville Blackhawks after coming through the Cowboys' under-20s.
"There are a few familiar faces so it's made the move a bit easier," he said.
"It's pretty strange [turning up to a new club]. Since high school I've only been at one club and it's been a good five or six years there so putting on a new uniform, stepping into a new club and getting familiar with how the club goes about training and stuff like that, it's exciting and a bit different."
To date O'Neill has played 67 NRL games and scored 34 tries, splitting his time predominantly between wing and centre.
His addition gives coach Paul Green a welcome headache as he endeavours to find the right balance between a host of outside backs pushing for a starting spot against the Roosters in Round 1.
Antonio Winterstein finished 2014 strongly and was superb for Samoa in the Four Nations, Kane Linnett has played 73 of his 74 games for the Cowboys in the centres, Tautau Moga will be rearing to deliver his best NRL season to date, Kyle Feldt played 22 games on the wing last season and Matthew Wright will be determined to win back his spot after serving his suspension stemming from the 2011 Cronulla supplements program.