North Queensland’s Lachlan Coote admits he’s making up for lost time in a career that promised so much when he first burst on to the NRL scene with Penrith in 2008.
Coote will celebrate his 26th birthday by facing his former club on Monday for the first time since being cut loose by Ivan Cleary with a year of his lucrative contract remaining at the end of 2013.
The emergence of Matt Moylan at the Panthers deemed Coote surplus to requirements as did a litany of injuries including a shoulder reconstruction and Osteitis Pubis – a lower abdominal problem. The result was just 83 appearances in six years at the club.
He hoped a move to Townsville, away from the creature comforts of his western Sydney home, would hand him a fresh start but just a month out from the start of the 2014 campaign he ruptured his knee ligaments.
Coote finally debuted for the Cowboys in the round three 44-22 loss to Brisbane before tasting victory for the first time at his new club against Melbourne last Monday.
He’ll return ‘home’ in a positive frame of mind and not thinking about revenge.
“I’m really looking forward to it, it’s my first return to the old club,” Coote said.
“It’s not really about all that (revenge). I am happy here but it is always good to get a win against your old club and hopefully we do that.
“My knee felt good against Melbourne and it was good to be able to push off it and run in to open space.”
With Moylan leading the way from fullback, Penrith enjoyed an outstanding 2014 and although they’ve lost their past two matches, they started this season with two strong wins against Canterbury and Gold Coast.
Coote admits he has been surprised by how well the Panthers have performed but fully expects a tough test on Easter Monday.
Ahead of the fixture, he’s been indulging with some friendly text banter with Moylan and James Segeyaro.
“They’ve really come up surprisingly well, but they have recruited well and have some very good young players who are well trained,” he said.
“It’s been good to watch them get a few wins but hopefully we can beat them … and who knows even maybe rough up ‘Chicko’ (Segeyaro) a bit.”
PENRITH PANTHERS v NORTH QUEENSLAND
* This match sees the best red zone attack come up against the worst red zone defence. This season the Panthers have scored 14 tries from inside their opponent’s 20. Cowboys opponents have needed on average just 5.8 tackles to score inside their 20.
* Since the beginning of 2012 the Cowboys have won 35 of 39 matches when leading at half-time, the best record of any team in this period. However, they have won just three of 35 matches when trailing at the break, the worst record of any team in this period.
* Dallin Watene-Zelezniak will be glad to be back in Penrith where he has scored seven tries in six matches, including five tries in his past three matches.