An injury-hit North Queensland are reeling from the news that backrower Ethan Lowe has been ruled out for the rest of the NRL season with a spinal complaint.
It had emerged before Friday night’s home sudden death semi-final against Brisbane that Lowe had been nursing a neck complaint from last week’s loss to Melbourne.
But Cowboys coach Paul Green still surprised a big media contingent in Townsville on Thursday when he revealed the full extent of Lowe’s injury.
“Ethan Lowe’s season is finished. Unfortunately he has injured his spinal chord,” Green said.
“As you can imagine it is pretty serious and pretty sensitive. Outside of that I can’t comment too much.
“It’s really devastating. He has been one of our most consistent players so far this year.”
Green was tight-lipped when pressed further on Lowe’s injury or even how it had occurred during the finals loss to the Storm.
“As a I said, due to the nature of the injury and the sensitivity surrounding it I am not going to comment any further,” Green said.
Lowe, 25, had a breakout 2016, at one stage earning a Queensland Origin 18th man call-up.
He had averaged more than 120m, 14 hit ups and 33 tackles in 25 games this season.
Coen Hess, just 20, will start in the backrow for Lowe with 2015 premiership interchange player John Asiata added to the bench.
Green confirmed they were also sweating on the fitness of winger Antonio Winterstein (ribs), with youngster Kalyn Ponga and Tautau Moga training with the senior group on Thursday.
“But at this stage that is not really worth commenting on. We will give Antonio right up to the game to get him right,” Green said.
“He is a pretty tough, experienced character. I would hope that he is right.”
Green officially ruled out centre Kane Linnett (hamstring), confirming eight-game player Javid Bowen would run out in the NRL grand final re-match.