Ponga and Mago to replace injured Cowboys
North Queensland Cowboys coach Paul Green has called upon superstar youngster Kalyn Ponga and rookie Patrick Mago to fill out the North Queensland side that will take on the Cronulla Sharks at 1300SMILES Stadium on Saturday.
The pair will replace the injured Justin O'Neill and Shaun Fensom respectively, while other members of the squad still remain under an injury cloud.
Fullback Lachlan Coote and five-eighth Te Maire Martin must pass fitness tests if they're to run out against the Cronulla Sharks on Saturday night, and have only Wednesday and Friday to train successfully.
"[Martin] has still got a few boxes to tick through the week, so he's got to get through tomorrow and Friday's training, but we're pretty confident he will play," Green said.
"He's obviously a much better chance [than last week], he's had another week's rest on it and rehab and he's going along nicely."
Despite the disruption Green is confident that his players will be more than able to execute a solid game plan against the fourth-placed Sharks, and the Cowboys will be desperate to avoid four straight losses.
Michael Morgan also fell victim to the Cowboys' captain's curse on the weekend, going down with concussion shortly before half-time and failing to return after the break, but will be fit to play this weekend.
"We've got a fair idea of what our team will be and how we want to play, we'll have to wait until Friday until we make those final decisions but I'm confident we'll get a full week in," Green said.
Green is hopeful that the inclusion of Ponga will give the Cowboys some additional attacking spark, but the under-20s fullback lacks the experience of O'Neill in the centres.
Ponga has plenty of experience in big games, having made his debut for the Cowboys in the 2016 finals series.
"I think Kalyn offers a bit of x-factor plus gives us cover at fullback if something was to happen with [Coote], he's played NRL before too," he said.
"It's a big game for both clubs, all three games we've got left are big games, we still need to get as many wins as we can."