NRL: NRL Tonight (20/4/17)
THEY were North Queensland’s premiership heroes
– the combination that played a major role in bringing the NRL trophy to Townsville for the first time.
But the Cowboys’ right-side combination of Justin O’Neill and Kyle Feldt is stuck in the abyss this season.
Once North Queensland’s most potent threat, O’Neill and Feldt are yet to cross the try line after seven rounds.
Feldt scored the memorable try in the final seconds of the 2015 grand final off Michael Morgan’s wonder play, but is stuck in a horrible patch of form, making multiple errors each week and losing confidence under the high ball.
BROKEN ARM: Winterstein ready to return
IN DEMAND: Rival clubs want Cowboy Asiata
O’Neill’s chances of a Test call-up were shaken with a shocker against the Dragons in Wollongong last Saturday in his return from a hamstring injury.
The saving grace for the Cowboys’ right side is boom backrower Coen Hess.
Hess, 20, has scored a stunning six tries this season going into Saturday’s clash against the struggling Knights at 1300SMILES Stadium.
“Me and the boys on the right edge were pretty disappointed in our performance (against the Dragons),” Hess said.
“We leaked a lot of tries. That was mainly our focus at training this week, rectifying those defensive problems we had.
“We’re pretty keen to fix those errors and build going forwards.
“A few of us were off that night, I’m not too sure what it was. We’ve got to turn up every week to play.
“Whatever it was, we missed the mark a few times.”
Morgan battled in the absence of key playmaker Johnathan Thurston against the Dragons and has been shifted into the No. 7 jersey by coach Paul Green.
It may seem like a minor change, but the halfback role can bring a psychological difference to a player knowing they are the chief of the side.
NRL: Wayne Bennett’s had a week to think about where new signing Jack Bird will fit into the Broncos next year.
The Cowboys have struggled for consistency in 2017 on the back of multiple injuries and are sitting in eighth spot with a 4-3 record.
Green admitted his right-side was below its best, but backed the Cowboys to respond as they get more troops back.
“It’s been a bit disrupted, (O’Neill) has only come back from injury and (Ethan) Lowe and Hess have been there,” he said.
“That right edge has been our stronger side in the past year but the combinations haven’t been there and they were a bit rusty (against the Dragons).
“We are just having a rough period at the moment. What it will do is give some of these young blokes experience.
“They are learning about playing NRL, we aren’t winning games, so we have to jag a few wins and stay in touch with the leaders in the competition which I’m confident we’ll do.
“I am confident we have got the players and they are learning some tough lessons at the moment, but they will be better for it down the track. If we stay tough, we will come out the other side a better team.”
The Cowboys can consolidate a spot in the top eight with home games against the Knights and Eels before the representative weekend bye.
Originally published as Cowboys combo stuck in the abyss