Settled Cowboys on the brink of history
The healing powers of grand final hero Kyle Feldt could enable the North Queensland Cowboys to create a unique piece of history by being the first Australian team to send the exact same premiership-winning squad to contest the World Club Challenge next month.
The Cowboys' clash with English champions Leeds on February 21 will determine which team can lay claim to the tag of world club champions for the next 12 months with the Broncos to play Wigan and the Roosters to meet St Helens in the expanded World Club Series.
Since the champion Roosters team of 1975 made four changes for the first world showdown against St Helens in June 1976, no Australian team has sent out the same side that was victorious in the premiership decider.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s the World Club Challenge was played in October at the completion of the NSWRL season but still the likes of Manly, Canberra and the Broncos were forced to make changes to their respective teams.
Since the formation of the NRL in 1998 the Panthers (2003 premiers) and Roosters (2013) have fielded teams with only two changes with the Broncos (2000), Bulldogs (2004) and Storm (2009) each having seven different players from the team that won the grand final.
Prior to the Christmas break Feldt was doubtful of making the trip to England following ankle surgery in the off-season but as he prepares to resume full training next week is now confident of being on the plane.
Co-captain Matt Scott also had neck surgery over the off-season but is determined to play and with the roster largely intact it gives coach Paul Green the opportunity to give his grand final-winning heroes a shot at a world title.
"We haven't really talked too much about the trip yet, we've been too busy concentrating on our structure at the moment and getting everyone back into the routine of training and getting our fitness back up to where it should be," Feldt told NRL.com.
"I start full training on Monday so hopefully I'll get a couple of trials under my belt before we leave and hopefully prove to the coach that I'm good to go.
"It would definitely be a good stepping stone for us, for the 17 who won the grand final too because it gives us a good slingshot into the season which we really need I think."
Feldt toured England, Wales and France with the Australian Institute of Sport squad in 2009 alongside Rabbitoh Paul Carter and was eager to ensure he could take his place in the Cowboys team for the game at famed Headingley Stadium.
Originally booked in for an ankle arthroscopy following his spectacular last-second try against the Broncos in the grand final, surgeons discovered that Feldt had actually suffered a tear to a tendon during the season, an injury he was oblivious to until after the operation.
"It would always be really sore after training and after games it would swell up but it was just something I had to manage," said the 23-year-old.
"I didn't want to risk getting surgery then because it wasn't that sore playing so I thought I could stick it out until the end of the year and I was lucky enough that I did.
"I was in a cast for two weeks and then a moon boot for four and then I started running on an altitude treadmill two days after I got out of the moon boot. I'm nearly running at full pace again which is good and on Monday I'll be back at full training.
"Tautau [Moga] and Matt Wright have been training really good so I've got to try and get back to keep my spot and show the coaches that I'm ready to go for the trials."