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He's pain free for the first time in years and Matt Scott says there is no reason that he should not be close to his best for the World Club Challenge against the Leeds Rhinos in England next month.

Scott returned to full training with the reigning Telstra Premiership champion Cowboys this week following major off-season neck surgery that he said provided instant relief as soon as the procedure was completed.

North Queensland teammate James Tamou went through a similar operation last year and took time to hit his stride but the Cowboys co-captain is adamant that with four weeks before his first trial game he will head to England ready to fire.

"There's no reason why it should be [a slow start]," Scott said.

"I'm back into full training now and there's still a fair bit of time before the trials and then Round 1 so I'm aiming to hit the ground running in Round 1.

"I want to be up at full speed and full fitness by then so there's not that slow start to the year.

"My goal is to play against the Blackhawks [on Thursday, February 11]. I'd like to get a few minutes in against the Blackhawks here before we go over to the UK and then be playing most of the game over at Leeds."

Given the all clear to resume full contact, Scott took part in a gruelling defensive session in the Townsville heat on Wednesday morning along with the rest of the squad.

The Maroons and Kangaroos prop conceded that there are some areas where he is behind other members of the group but that he is on track to participate in all the significant trial games looming in the coming weeks.

"It's been good to get back with the full squad. I've been doing 90 per cent of the stuff but I'm pretty much into everything now and the body's feeling really good. The neck's still really good also," he said.

"I don't have all the referred pain down my arms, back and chest like it has been previously so the surgery has been a success and it's quite good to be able to go out and train and be in a bit less pain.

"Defensively I've missed a bit of work there with the guys. We've got a fair bit of work done today out on the field so it's just about getting that timing and a bit of strength back defensively.

"I've been through a few surgeries now so quite used to the process of coming back into full training.

"I was confident with the work that I had done in the gym and with the medical staff that I was ready to go so no nerves at all."

As the Cowboys sweltered in 32-degree heat on Wednesday their World Club Challenge opponents were preparing for the start of their season on February 4 in temperatures barely above zero and with snow in surrounding areas.

The title of world champions will go on the line on February 21 at Leeds's Headingley Stadium and the Cowboys have shown their intent with the withdrawal of star half Johnathan Thurston from the Indigenous All Stars team.

While acknowledging what a difficult decision it must have been for Thurston, Scott said it indicates how seriously the club is taking their pre-season excursion to the north of England.

"We've spoken a little bit about the World Club Challenge and that being the start of our season so that just shows his commitment to that game and to the club," Scott said of Thurston's decision.

"It's great news for us and obviously hard for him to pull out of a game that means so much to him.

"There's probably no one in the game that's done more for Indigenous heritage both on and off the field. I don't think anyone can question 'JT' in that regard.

"For him to pull out really shows that he's concentrating on this game and he's taking it very seriously.

"I think it was snowing over there yesterday so it will be tough but it's a great experience for us. We've got a relatively young side and it's a great spectacle and should be a tough game.

"We've been training really well, we should have the same side that played in the grand final so there's no reason we can't go over there and be successful.

"This is all new ground for us so it's very exciting and everyone is looking forward to it."

Photo: North Queensland Cowboys
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