BRISBANE Jun 28 2012
Still clinging to hope that Matt Bowen will play on Sunday, North Queensland admit they are also sweating on another player they believe is worthy of State of Origin ahead of their NRL clash with the Warriors.
The Cowboys are happy Bowen made Queensland's 20-strong squad ahead of next week's Origin series decider in Brisbane but North Queensland assistant coach Terry Matterson says they would love Bowen to play against the Warriors.
The Cowboys are definitely without Origin reps Johnathan Thurston, Brent Tate, Matt Scott (Qld) and James Tamou (NSW) and might not know of Bowen's availability until match eve with the make-up of the Queensland side depending on fullback Billy Slater's fitness.
"At the moment, we are fairly hopeful from our point of view of having Matty but obviously, from his point of view, it would be great if he could play Origin," Matterson said on Thursday.
"That's out of our hands at the moment."
Bowen has been named as the Cowboys No.1 but Ash Graham and Kalifa Faifai Loa are options to replace the match winner.
However, the Cowboys also have their eye on another player Matterson believed would not look out of place in a Maroons jersey - returning Warriors hooker Nathan Friend.
The ex-Gold Coast rake is back from a seven-week layoff with a broken jaw - and the timing could not be worse according to Matterson.
"Nathan Friend coming back makes a big difference. He's an out-and-out hooker - I think he's a rep hooker as well," he said.
"I had a little bit to do with him when he was coming through at the Broncos - he's very direct and just a tough little competitor."
Despite breaking his jaw in the round-nine clash with the Broncos, Friend completed the match with 53 tackles and setting up two tries.
But Matterson still backed his side to win for just the second time in seven games in Auckland.
"No one is expecting us to do well. But there are a lot of expectations in this club to go over there and get the job done," he said.
"It will be a chance for (halves) Michael Morgan and Ray Thompson to stamp their authority a bit more.
"Ashton Sims is champing at the bit (after a one week ban) ... and people like (fellow forward) Joel Reithmuller has been out of the limelight for a little bit.
"Those guys have to grab this opportunity."
Laine Clark - AAP