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Tautau Moga is on the comeback trail for the North Queensland Cowboys.

He was the Cowboys' form outside back at the time of his injury last season, but returning centre Tautau Moga has a mountain to climb before winning back his first grade spot.

Moga made his comeback from his third right knee reconstruction well ahead of schedule, with club medical staff saying he would need at least 12 months before returning to action.

The ACL injury was sustained in a Representative Round game against Tonga in early May last year but Moga can already boast a game under his belt in 2016, lining up for Cowboys Intrust Super Cup feeder team the Mackay Cutters last Saturday.

The Samoan national looked confident at left centre in his return game, but Cowboys coach Paul Green hinted the 22-year-old will be staying put for a while, resigning the prospect of Moga's elevation to mere 'hope'.

"I hope so," he said when asked if Moga is knocking on the door of NRL duties.

"I thought he got to a point last year, before he did his knee, where he was playing a really consistent and dangerous type of footy.

"The more of those guys you have fit and ready to play, the stronger your squad is. It's a long year so you need your good players playing."

Once compared to the likes of Israel Folau and Greg Inglis, the NRL's 'forgotten man' could be excused for thinking his playing days were numbered, but has fought on for his fourth fresh start.

Moga undertook a cycling regimen at the instruction of club medical staff, scaling the toughest mountains in the Townsville region as part of rehabilitation.

Making Moga's comeback more special was that much of his work was done alone – a fact not lost on Green.

"A lot of work that you have to do with that injury is done on your own and you aren't in that team environment, so mentally it can be really tough," Green said.

"Given it's his third as well, it's a credit to him that he has the mental toughness he has to get himself back to where he is."

Moga is himself not looking too far ahead, saying the immediate goal is to make the transition back to competitive football a safe one.

"[The next step] is just to play footy and be safe, I guess," he said.

"For me, I just want to play consistent footy week in, week out.

"The knee is all good, I'm pretty confident in that. I've just gotten myself prepared mentally and it has paid off."

In team news, Javid Bowen has been named at left centre against Souths, with Kane Linnett unlikely to recover in time. Young prop Patrick Kaufusi has been named 18th man.

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