Cowboys look to lure Dragons flyer north
THE Cowboys are closing in on the first piece of their rebuilding puzzle as Maroons hopeful Nene Macdonald eyes a move to North Queensland.
Macdonald is homesick at the Dragons and contemplating leaving St George Illawarra to link with North Queensland next season.
The Cowboys are on the hunt for a new winger to replace the retired Antonio Winterstein, who pulled the plug on his career a fortnight ago because of a chronic knee injury.
Macdonald is contracted to the Dragons next season but is weighing up requesting a release to return to north Queensland.
The Papua New Guinea international was raised in Cairns and a move to Townsville would take him closer to home.
Macdonald, 24, has been earmarked as a future Queensland State of Origin player and is being closely monitored by Maroons selectors and coach Kevin Walters.
He made his NRL debut for the Roosters in 2014 before linking with the Gold Coast Titans midway through the 2015 season.
Macdonald scored 14 tries in 34 games for the Titans, but the Gold Coast baulked at offering him an upgraded contract which opened the door for the Dragons to pounce.
Macdonald has been a revelation at the Dragons over the past two seasons with his slick try-scoring ability.
He has scored nine tries in 17 games this season, but has been sidelined with a foot injury for the past three weeks.
Macdonald could become North Queensland's first recruit for the 2019 season as coach Paul Green tries to rebuild the Cowboys into a premiership force.
Fullback Lachlan Coote and outside backs Kane Linnett and Javid Bowen are expected to leave the club at the end of the season.
Veterans Gavin Cooper and Matt Scott are expected to retire at the end of the 2019 season in what will signal the end of an era for the Cowboys.
After seven-straight years in the finals, a maiden NRL premiership in 2015 and a grand final appearance last year, the Cowboys are fighting to avoid the wooden spoon.
The 15th-placed Cowboys are equal on 12 points with last-placed Parramatta, with only a marginally superior points difference (-124 to -140) keeping them off the bottom.
The Cowboys showed improvement in Saturday night's 26-20 defeat to the Roosters and will be aiming for their sixth win of the season when they host the Brisbane Broncos at 1300SMILES Stadium in Thursday night's derby.