Emerging Cowboys three-quarter Javid Bowen would have jumped for joy on Wednesday night when news emerged of Broncos centre James Roberts' failed bid to overturn his contrary conduct charge.
Replacing one of the NRL's best defensive centres in Kane Linnett (low-grade hamstring strain) will be a mammoth task for the man known more for his attacking attributes, but Bowen can sleep soundly knowing one of the game's most dangerous players with ball in hand – and his direct matchup – will be absent this week.
Roberts, who has broken the Cowboys' line three times in their two meetings this year, has played a key part in the recent Broncos' right-side annihilation of their intrastate rivals.
Over the past three encounters, halfback Ben Hunt has assisted on two tries and four line breaks (tied with Jake Granville for most from either team) and back-rower Matt Gillett has chipped in two tries and three line breaks, while the Johnathan Thurston (12 missed tackles) and Gavin Cooper (10) combination has been a weak point.
Thurston says Bowen has improved defensively through his eight NRL games this year and will be a solid replacement on Cooper's outside.
"He definitely has [improved], he understands our defensive structures now and our system and I think he's defended really well when he's played outside [Cooper]," Thurston said.
"In the games he's played filling in for [Linnett], he's done a really good job for us and we'll need him to do that again.
"[Linnett] takes a lot of tough carries coming out of our end, so that's something we will miss, but in saying that 'Jango' has some really good footwork and he can poke his nose through the line as well. So we're blessed in that area I suppose."
Bowen has quietly been a revelation in his pinch-hitting roles with the Cowboys this year. After some shaky defensive moments to kick off his top-grade career, he has shone at both left centre and right wing positions during Linnett's calf injury (Round 16) and Kyle Feldt's suspension (Round 18) earlier this year.
Strong carries and subtle footwork have been Bowen's point of difference, and at times the 23-year-old has looked the most likely outside back to break a line. And, much like his uncle Matthew, is a quiet character who lets his game do the talking.
"I think he's been really good in the games that he's played," coach Paul Green said.
"He's gotten better the more time he has spent [in first grade]. To be fair, he was probably a bit unlucky to not keep his spot, but I gave the incumbents their opportunities back in the side.
"So unfortunately Javid missed out that time, but he's worked really well since then and certainly hasn't dropped his bundle.
"He's worked hard to get his chance and made the most of it when he did, so he deserves another chance."
Green has not ruled out Linnett for Friday night, but has conceded he is highly unlikely to recover in time.
Game on. Data off.
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