North Queensland hooker Jake Granville's return in the Cowboys' 24-16 win over the Bulldogs on Thursday night wasn't at all expected by his coach Paul Green.
Granville fractured the middle metacarpal in his left hand three weeks ago and was ruled out as a late-inclusion for the Bulldogs clash earlier in the week.
Green said on Monday he wouldn't make any unnecessary risks when it came to Granville's health, and admitted his surprise over the rake's performance after missing the past two games.
"Jake was a bit of a surprise inclusion. I didn't expect him to play, he had a few things to get through, but his hand was really good so it was a bit of a bonus for us the fact that he did play," Green said.
"I thought he added a bit of spark when he finally ran out there which is what we were looking for."
Granville told NRL.com following the Cowboys' eight-point win that he had no issues with his hand throughout the game.
The 27-year-old said his early return was crucial in a personal sense as the Cowboys continue to build on their premiership defence.
"I was keen to have a run-around. I didn't want to miss another week because I was already dirty about missing two," Granville said.
"They're a physical team the Bulldogs but it was good to be back out there playing with the boys again. I really enjoyed it.
"The hand pulled up well. I had a fitness test on Tuesday and the doctor and physio were both pretty happy with how it went. It's healed really well."
The Cowboys' victory meant they have leapfrogged the Bulldogs into the top four on the NRL Telstra Premiership ladder.
Granville said a grinding performance like the one North Queensland produced will only contribute to the club building a siege mentality heading into the finals.
North Queensland have now racked up two consecutive wins – following their 34-6 victory over the Warriors last weekend.
It comes after a period of three-straight losses which saw the Cowboys then drop out of the top four for the first time since Round 4.
"The boys played unreal last week and it was a massive step in the right direction. It was good to back it up out there against the Bulldogs," Granville said.
"It's really important for your confidence and to build that tough finals mentality. The Dogs are an unreal team so it was good to match them in that department."