North Queensland co-captain Matt Scott says he’s aiming to be fit for the World Club Challenge and is confident his off-season neck surgery won’t dent his form.
The Cowboys took the first step towards their premiership defence on Monday when they returned to pre-season training in Townsville.
Scott will be on restricted duties for the next month after undergoing a successful neck operation following their grand final win over Brisbane and will begin full contact in late December.
While he will be eased back into it, he says he’s determined to be right for the Cowboys’ first assignment as premiers – the World Club Challenge against Super League Champions Leeds in England in February.
“I definitely want to play (the World Club Challenge) and I think it’ll be more than fine,” Scott said.
“After Christmas I aim to be back into full training. Contact might have to be modified just a little bit early on. But I couldn’t see why I wouldn’t be right to play.”
All of the Cowboys’ grand final heroes, including Clive Churchill medallist Johnathan Thurston, returned for pre-season training on Monday as the club aims to become the first back-to-back champions in a united competition since the 1992-93 Broncos.
Coach Paul Green has already warned his team about the onset of complacency and they have been given an early boost with boom hooker Jake Granville re-signing until the end of 2018.
Scott faces a similar predicament to what front-row teammate James Tamou dealt with last year when his form and confidence dipped following off-season neck surgery and took several months to get back to his best.
The 30-year-old Test and Queensland Origin prop said he felt a marked improvement since going under the knife and was confident of hitting the ground running in the new season.
“The instant relief, the difference before and after the surgery was amazing, I didn’t realise it’d be so much relief so quick,” Scott said.
“All the pain in my arms was gone, the pins and needles in my fingers and forearms was all gone. I was very excited about not having to deal with that.
“Hopefully the surgery lasts and gets me through the rest of my career.”