North Queensland Cowboys training from 1300 Smiles Stadium. Nene Macdonald. Picture: Zak Simmonds
North Queensland Cowboys training from 1300 Smiles Stadium. Nene Macdonald. Picture: Zak Simmonds

MacDonald backed for Round 1

COWBOYS second rower Gavin Cooper believes off-season signing Nene MacDonald has not jeopardised his chances of locking down a starting spot for Round 1 after being dropped from Saturday's final trial.

MacDonald was a late scratching from the hitout against the Storm - which the Cowboys won 14-6 - after arriving late for a training session last week and getting replaced in coach Paul Green's line-up by Javid Bowen.

Green has said spots remain up for grabs in his final team ahead of North Queensland's season kick-off against the Dragons on March 16, but Cooper believes MacDonald has not put his Round 1 prospects in danger despite going without a trial game for his new club.

"Queensland Cup starts this weekend, so he missed the trial but he might get a chance to play," Cooper said.

"I'm no coach, but that may happen.

"He looks like he should be part of the 17, so we'll wait and see.

"It's just a small glitch in his whole off-season, he's been very good since he got here and we don't want to make it bigger that what it really is.

"I'm sure he'll learn from it and he's generally one of the first there all the time.

"So he knows the rules, everybody knows the rules, so we'll move forward."


Green has a handful of tough decisions to make in the fortnight leading up to season kick-off, including who will partner Michael Morgan in the halves.

Halfback contenders Jake Clifford and Te Maire Martin again shared a game on Saturday, with Green impressed by the games of both playmakers.

"There's been a lot made of positions around the halves as well with Cliffo and Te Maire," Cooper said.

"We're not too sure how he (Green) is going to go.

"We're still two weeks away and there's still a bit of training to do, and we still haven't reviewed the game from the weekend.

"There's still a lot to talk about."

The Cowboys will also announce their captain at Friday's season launch, with Michael Morgan seemingly the favourite.

But Cooper was keen to keep his prediction under wraps, instead offering at tongue-in-cheek suggestion.

"Greeny's looking at putting into place a captain-coach model, so it might be him...we'll wait and see," he said.

Cooper maintained his try scoring run on Saturday to take his tally to 10 tries from 10 games, but the Origin forward downplayed his performance on the weekend despite scoring his team's first points.

"I missed a bit of training around the flood time and had a bit of a calf strain, so I missed I bit there," Cooper said.

"That's why I was limited to 60 minutes.

"I did a couple of good things (but) there's still a lot to work on.

"We do a lot of opposed stuff befause our squads are so big these days, but they're not quite to a game level.

"So we'll probably do that again by the end of this week and really pull back on the training and focus on the games next week."