Cowboys trio poised to face Sharks in NRL

Injury-ravaged North Queensland have been handed a much-needed boost with Te Maire Martin, Lachlan Coote and Michael Morgan all set to play in Saturday night’s must-win NRL clash against Cronulla.

Martin and Coote got through the team’s final training session unscathed and will line up at 1300SMILES Stadium unless their knee issues flare up in the morning, coach Paul Green confirmed.

Morgan has also been given the green light after passing all the necessary concussion tests, having taken a hit to his head in last week’s defeat to Penrith.

The Cowboys are already without Gavin Cooper (calf), Antonio Winterstein (hamstring), Justin O’Neill (elbow) and Shaun Fensom (knee) for the short term, while Johnathan Thurston, Matt Scott, Pat Kaufusi and Ben Spina are all out for the season.

“This year’s been one of the toughest years I’ve been involved with, injury-wise,” said Scott Bolton, who will play his 200th NRL match on Saturday.

“It’s a credit to the depth we’ve got at the club, everyone keeps coming in and doing their job.”

Defeat to the reigning premiers would leave the Cowboys at risk of losing their top-eight position, while victory would go a long way towards securing a finals spot.

Bolton, meanwhile, will be three kilograms below his usual playing weight after playing through last weekend’s match while battling illness.

That will be less than ideal against Cronulla’s bulging forward pack, who have gone missing for the last two weeks but will be keen to assert themselves again and also keep their side in the hunt for the top four.

“It’s big. It’s a home game for us, a couple of things to play for there with Bolts’ 200th,” Green said.

“If players are looking for a bit of motivation, it’s not too hard to find.”

The Sharks, who will also celebrate James Maloney’s 200th-game milestone, have been installed as favourites but the Cowboys have proved this season their performances aren’t dictated by their absentees.

“We’ll be in there swinging. We’ve shown that we stay in the fight, regardless of what’s going on,” Green said.

STATS THAT MATTER

* In Townsville, the Cowboys have won the past two matches and four of the past five against the Sharks.

* After playing the Broncos at Suncorp Stadium last round, this will be the first time in the Sharks history they have played back to back matches in Queensland.

* Cronulla are definitely a second half team, scoring 102 points more than their opposition this season after the break compared to conceding 49 points more in the first half.

* All Offers and Promotions posted in this article excludes NSW residents.
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