Cowboys ready for 'physical' Knights
North Queensland hookers Rory Kostjasyn and Ray Thompson are back fighting for coach Paul Green's approval after Thompson was named 18th man for the Cowboys' Anzac Day clash in Newcastle.
The two spent the bulk of 2014 jostling for the starting hooker spot but Kostjasyn's consistent, defensive-minded game won him the jersey in the latter stages of the season.
Kostjasyn held the position coming into 2015 but dropped his spot in the pecking order to Jake Granville in Round 4 amidst a selection shake-up following three straight losses.
Granville's arrival has also pushed Thompson to the periphery, with the 25-year-old having to prove his wears for the Townsville Blackhawks in the Intrust Super Cup.
Thompson's solid form at No.9 for the league leaders has caught the attention of Green, who hinted the local product's name is again featuring prominently at the selection table.
"Ray has been playing well down there and I just want to keep him close to what we're doing so he knows he's not far away," Green said.
The Cowboys mentor also predicted Knights hitman Beau Scott would play despite an ankle ligament injury suffered against the Dragons in Round 5.
"I expect him to play. He's a pretty tough, resilient sort of bloke, fairly experienced too. They're coming off a couple of losses so I would be expecting him to line up if he's close to being fit," Green said.
Scott was public enemy No.1 in North Queensland after the treatment Johnathan Thurston received in Round 2, where the back-rower left Johnathan Thurston battered, bruised and seeing out of one eye.
Scott was reported twice but escaped suspension with an early guilty plea, and Green expects much the same after the Novocastrians walked away with the two points.
"Games against Newcastle are always fairly physical so don't expect this one to be any different," Green said.
"We're playing at their home ground and they're a tough team and that's how they like to play so I would expect them to pressure more of our key guys."
With the confidence of consecutive wins and a more menacing forward pack, Green believes his side is an improved unit against Newcastle this time around.
"We have [improved] quite a bit I think. Mentally we're a lot better, [there's] a bit more confidence in the team; we've hung in games for a lot longer compared with that period. It's a different team with some of the key positions and also I think we're defending better," he said.
"We were disappointed with the loss but we don't want to make too much of that game, it was a fair while ago now."