Cronulla captain Paul Gallen is out of his side’s key NRL clash with North Queensland on Saturday but is expected to be fit for the State of Origin decider.
Gallen has failed to recover from a rib cartilage injury and did not travel with the side to Townsville.
Coach Shane Flanagan said Gallen was touch and go and would have played with an extra two days recovery.
“He was close to playing and he did some running but when he did some contact he just wasn’t there,” Flanagan said.
“With the short turnaround and travel to Queensland we had to make a decision and unfortunately he missed the boat … I’m thinking that if we had a Monday night game he would have played.”
Gallen has endured an injury-plagued season because of glute and rib problems.
He has not played since Origin II earlier this month and will not have another hit out before the July 8 decider at Suncorp Stadium.
He has now played just two matches since round 6 in April however his name is almost certain to be read out when Blues coach Laurie Daley names his side on Tuesday for Origin III.
Gallen’s absence is also a big blow for Cronulla who have a chance to jump into the top eight with a win over the red-hot Cowboys, who are on an 11-match winning streak.
Flanagan backed his charges to cover Gallen’s loss after the side won three of its last four including a come-from-behind victory over Newcastle last week.
“Gal’s our leader but we’ve got so many senior players in our team that we just move on,” Flanagan said. “We don’t talk to the media about it, we don’t talk about it as a group.
“We have confidence in the players coming in. It would have been a hard decision on who to leave out of the team that won last week.”