North Queensland’s retention of their NRL premiership-winning squad has continued with the re-signings of Justin O’Neill and Ethan Lowe.
The pair have signed two-year deals to keep them at the Cowboys until the end of the 2018 season.
O’Neill and Lowe join Lachlan Coote, Antonio Winterstein and Kane Linnett as players from last year’s grand final-winning side to commit to the Cowboys.
O’Neill – who made his State of Origin debut for Queensland this year – had been linked to a return to Melbourne, where he began his NRL career in 2010.
Coach Paul Green says the 25-year-old has proven himself worthy of a new deal.
“Juz-e to be fair probably got off to a rocky start with us,” Green said.
“He’s really knuckled down, worked hard and improved his game, and topped off this year by being selected in the State of Origin team, so really I’m pleased for him.
“He’s worked hard for everything he’s got.”
Lowe has been with the Cowboys since making his first-grade debut in 2013.
The backrower had been linked with a move to Queensland rivals Brisbane but will now extend his stay at North Queensland to six years by the end of his new deal.
NSW State of Origin prop James Tamou is the only Cowboy from last year’s premiership to be confirmed to be leaving the club at season’s end.
The futures of utility Rory Kostjasyn and Ben Hannant remain undecided, with both yet to secure a deal past this season.
Green says keeping the core of his premiership-winning side together is a key element to future success.
“We believe that’s where our advantage lies at the moment,” Green said.
“We’re really heavily focused on trying to retain as many of our squad as we can.”