The North Queensland Cowboys are set to debut young prop Braden Uele against the Sydney Roosters this weekend, after interchange forward Shaun Fensom failed to recover from a rib cartilage injury in time to make the trip south.
Braden will add some size against the Roosters, with the 112kg, 191cm forward having represented the Junior Kiwis and also improving in the Intrust Super Cup throughout the year.
The Cowboys may miss Fensom's tireless defence in the middle of the field, with the tackling-machine usually coming on late in the first half to tighten the Cowboys up around the ruck.
Fensom has averaged 21 tackles in just 35 minutes of game time throughout the season, but Cowboys coach Paul Green is confident the players available will be able to keep the centre of the field tight against the Roosters.
"That's his strength and that's probably why he earnt that starting position but everyone else knows what their job is and I'm sure they'll be ready to do that," Green said of Fensom.
"We probably risk him being out for a few weeks if we did play him. We've got a big six weeks ahead of us so probably caution is the best way to approach it at the moment."
Uele has been pushing for a starting spot for some time, and Green is confident the strong mentality the Cowboys have had around injury throughout the year will shine through against the Roosters.
"He's done the work recently. One of the challenges for him this year was to be consistent back in the Intrust Super Cup, I think he's probably done that so far this year so I think he deserves his chance," Green said.
"So far I think the guys that we have used and have debuted so far have done a great job for us and have put us in the position that we're in."
Uele's role will be different to Fensom's, but whether he's more or less effective against the Roosters won't be known until Saturday.
The debutant weighs only one kilogram less than Jason Taumalolo, and if he can do as much damage as the 2016 Dally M medal winner the Roosters will have a headache containing the two big forwards from New Zealand.
"He's a big lump and he takes big tackles, that's probably the main attribute we want him to bring," the Cowboys' coach said.
"He's played at the Roosters too as a young guy, so I think he'll probably relish that challenge so we'll see how we go Saturday night."