Coote playing for Pride in comeback match
FULLBACK Lachlan Coote will play Queensland Cup in his return from a hamstring injury this weekend, with Cowboys coach Paul Green adamant it would be a risk if he was thrust straight back into the NRL.
A mainstay of the Cowboys spine for the past three seasons, Coote's injury has heavily disrupted his pre-season.
Instead of lining up against Penrith at 1300 SMILES Stadium on Thursday, he will play for Mackay Cutters against Northern Pride in Cairns on Saturday.
The 27-year-old has been frustrated by niggling hamstring and calf complaints the past two seasons and Green has opted for a safety first approach.
"He'll play Q Cup this week as long as he gets through the week training," Green said Tuesday afternoon.
"If you look at his pre-season, he hasn't had a full training week yet for probably eight weeks, and I think it (NRL) is a risk at this stage given the amount of work he's done.
"Unfortunately for Cootey he's had a pretty disrupted pre-season, he's only played 10 minutes of footy and that was in the trial match against Melbourne.
"The best thing for Cootey, as hard as it may be for him to get his head around, is to go back and play some good footy at Q Cup, get a couple of games under his belt, get confidence in the hammy and I'm sure before too long he'll be back in the side."
The Cowboys are looking to bounce back from two straight losses, with Green particularly scathing of his team's "effort areas" in last week's 30-14 loss in Melbourne.
But he said the early stage of the season means they don't need to panic by risking Coote.
"No one's excused from playing reserve grade, it's there for a reason," Green said.
"For him to go back and get some confidence is probably what's best for his footy, and we're not at a point as a team where we have to take that risk going into a game just yet.
"If we had a couple more injuries it might have been a different decision we made.
"No one likes to hear that news, everyone wants to play NRL, but he's a professional and cares about the team. He knows what he has to do, and the ball is in his court now too.
"To be fair to (replacement fullback) Ben Hampton I think he's done a really good job for us, for him to lose his spot wouldn't necessarily be the right thing to do either."
Green is confident of a response from this team after he told them to "stop reading headlines" after the Storm game.
"I'd like to think so, you want to give them that chance. Everyone was pretty disappointed just in a few effort areas," he said.
"A lot of teams are going to lose to Melbourne to Melbourne, it was more in how we played and we're looking for more of an effort in some of the tough areas of the game."
Cowboys team to play Penrith on Thursday at 1300 SMILES Stadium, 7pm: 1 Ben Hampton, 2 Kyle Feldt, 3 Justin O'Neill, 4 Javid Bowen, 5 Antonio Winterstein, 6 Michael Morgan, 7. Johnathan Thurston, 8 Matthew Scott, 9 Jake Granville, 10 Jordan McLean, 11 Gavin Cooper, 12 Coen Hess, 13 Jason Taumalolo, 14 Te Maire Martin, 15 John Asiata, 16 Scott Bolton, 17 Ethan Lowe, 18 Corey Jensen, 19 Lachlan Coote, 20 Francis Molo, 21 Enari Tuala.