Cowboys stick with tried and true
'Continuity' and 'combinations' were the buzz words for Cowboys coach Paul Green as he talked about managing selection headaches ahead of his side's Round 1 clash with the Roosters at 1300SMILES Stadium on Saturday night.
The additions of Origin prop Ben Hannant and premiership winner Justin O'Neill headline a wave of added talent at Green's disposal, including an excess of quality names in playmaking positions, along with five applicants to fill just two hooker spots.
Green's biggest off-season headache however, was whether to hand the No.1 jersey over to Lachlan Coote or have it remain in the keeping of Michael Morgan, who earned a Maroons squad call-up after his stellar form throughout 2014.
Green opted for the tried-and-tested Morgan, while Coote will find his minutes and match fitness with Intrust Super Cup champions Northern Pride over the coming weeks.
"I picked the team on form, based on what our best combinations were," Green said on Tuesday.
"It was (Morgan's) jersey to lose, the way we finished last year and the way he finished in particular. Given 'Cootey' hasn't played a hell of a lot of footy in the last two years – he's only played about six games – coming back from a serious knee operation, I just think (with) a little bit of time, a bit of footy in the legs, he will be back to his best."
With Coote a full-time five-eighth in Penrith throughout 2013, a shift to the halves in place of Robert Lui was on the cards, but Green said Lui's work ethic in the off-season along with his combination with Johnathan Thurston proved why he deserved to remain the side's No.6.
"(Lui) fitted into that role really well for us at the end of the year," Green said.
"He knows the way we play really well and he knows what I expect from him and I know what he can give to the team as well.
Being a year down the track working with each other, he knows what the team needs from him and having that competition in those spots has brought out the best in everyone. His trial form was good, so that's why he got the nod."
An improbable first-round selection until recently, James Tamou's diligent rehabilitation from neck surgery has paid off just in time, with the Test prop playing his first post-surgery game last Friday (for the Northern Pride) and a subsequent Round 1 return from the bench.
"It's a pretty serious injury and operation he has dealt with," said Green. "He's done a wonderful job of getting himself back right to play last week, and full credit to him and our medical staff as well.
"Last week was about blowing the cobwebs out. Now that he's done that, this week he will not be as worried about his injury and will be able to concentrate more on the game and what he needs to do for the team."