Cooper and Winterstein injured
The North Queensland Cowboys have suffered a double blow with captain Gavin Cooper and winger Antonio Winterstein both set to miss several weeks due to injury.
Cooper damaged his calf in much the same way as Johnathan Thurston and Lachlan Coote earlier in the year, and the setbacks are the latest in a string of injuries that have come at the worst time with finals only a month away.
"It's unfortunate for us given the timing of it and the games we've got ahead of us but "Coops" will be doing everything he can to get back on the paddock and fingers crossed he'll only be out for a couple of weeks," Cowboys coach Paul Green said.
The Cowboys will be playing for their season in the next few weeks, with games against the Penrith Panthers, Cronulla Sharks and Brisbane Broncos before finals.
Michael Morgan has been named captain of the Cowboys for the game against the Panthers, a title coach Paul Green says is a natural progression in his development this year.
The coach gave Morgan the role due to his development through the year, as well as his position at halfback which allows him to play for 80 minutes.
"He's really embraced his added role this year, his added responsibility since [Johnathan Thurston] has been out. I think it's a natural step in his development, it's his natural progression," Green said.
"There are other guys out there that are part of that leadership group that will certainly help, "Cootey" in the back, guys like that… It'll be a bit of a team effort but I think it will be good for [Morgan]."
Another concern for the Cowboys after last week's game was wounded forward Scott Bolton, the leader of the Cowboys' forward pack was forced from the field after taking a knock.
Green is confident the days off will give Bolton ample time to recover to make a strong charge into the finals.
"[Bolton] has been battling a few things… he got a bad flu a couple of weeks ago and that sort of knocked him around a bit. We've given him a good rest this week given we've had an eight day turnaround… this was our opportunity to freshen them up before we come into the back end of the season," Green said.