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Payten to isolate for two weeks as COVID-19 'close contact'

North Queensland CEO Jeff Reibel said Saturday's clash with Newcastle is not in doubt as long as all players return negative COVID-19 tests after coach Todd Payten was forced to isolate as a close contact.

Payten will miss the Cowboys' next two games after being sent into a 14-day isolation - backdated to Sunday - due to close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case at the Townsville Markets.

He is awaiting the results of a COVID-19 test after the cancellation of Wednesday's training session and will need to have "multiple tests throughout this next 12-day period," according to Reibel.

Assistant coach Dean Young will take charge for the next two clashes against Newcastle and South Sydney.

Players Tom Gilbert and Griffin Neame are also in isolation awaiting COVID-19 test results after travelling to nearby Magnetic Island on Saturday, while their housemate, training squad member Laitia Moceidreke, is in the same boat.

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They can return home after recording negative tests.

Strength and conditioning coach Mark Henry has also been made to isolate as he awaits the test result of a visiting family member who travelled to Townsville on a flight linked to a COVID-19 case.

All members of the club's bubble has undergone COVID tests. Reibel said they hope to receive the results within 24 hours and, if the tests are negative, the squad can then resume training.

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"On Monday, we held a training session and all of the people I just talked about were present here. I stress that was when we were outside any Apollo protocol up here in Townsville," Reibel said.

He reiterated the game against the Knights is not in jeopardy, subject to negative tests, and said the Cowboys had been granted an exemption from the NSW Government to catch a game-day charter flight to Newcastle.

"Our preparation has been affected already. The fact that we had to cancel training today and also whilst Todd will be away, all of our other coaching staff has stepped up to ensure that we are prepared for Saturday," Reibel added.

Queensland Origin representatives Valentine Holmes and Kyle Feldt had been scheduled to rejoin their Cowboys teammates on Wednesday having observed 48 hours of isolation after game two.

Townsville, Magnetic Island and south-east Queensland have been locked down by the Queensland government until at least Friday as the state goes through another COVID-19 spike.

Reibel said Payten, who was allowed to be at the Townsville Markets on the weekend as the club was then operating under level-one protocols, was "not showing any [COVID] symptoms at all".

The Cowboys cancelled their Wednesday training sesion.
The Cowboys cancelled their Wednesday training sesion. ©

"Todd’s in good spirits. I was talking to him just before I came on [on a Zoom call], he's very keen to ensure that the team has very little disruption as we go into Saturday," Reibel said.

"Dean [Young] will act as the interim coach, but Todd will be in close contact on a daily basis via Zoom, via the phone, via FaceTime and the like."

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