Cowboys' finals hopes stunned by Lowe blow
RUGBY LEAGUE: North Queensland coach Paul Green has been rocked by late injuries to try-scoring edge forward Ethan Lowe and grand final-winning winger Antonio Winterstein on the eve of their much-anticipated NRL knockout semi-final in Townsville tomorrow night.
A deeply concerned Green outlined the seriousness of Lowe's season-ending spinal cord injury and confirmed Winterstein was battling sore ribs and may not take the field against his former club Brisbane in last year's grand final re-match.
"Ethan Lowe's season is finished. Unfortunately he has injured his spinal cord," said Green, clearly disappointed for his strike player.
"As you can imagine it is pretty serious and pretty sensitive. Outside of that I can't comment too much.
"It's really devastating. He has been one of our most consistent players so far this year."
Giant youngster Coen Hess will come into the Cowboys pack for Lowe, while two of the culprits involved in last week's egg-throwing escapade, Kalyn Ponga and Tautau Moga, are understood to be on standby for Winterstein if needed.
"We will give Antonio right up to the game to get him right," Green said.
"He is a pretty tough, experienced character. I would hope that he is right."
Green has now lost centre Kane Linnett, Lowe and possibly Winterstein, while Maroons forward Matt Scott is carrying a dicey back.
Brisbane has made a late change, with James Roberts rubbed out by the judiciary, opening the way for Tom Opacic to return to left centre and youngster Jonus Pearson to play his third game on the right wing.
Broncos coach Wayne Bennett said he was confident the high standard the two teams had set in the past two seasons, with just one point separating them in each of the past three games, would continue.
"There's a great mixture and rivalry between the clubs, and a high quality of players, and it brings the best out in all the players," he said.
Bennett conceded Lowe was a considerable loss but said most players in the modern game were replaceable.
"They'll miss him like we will miss James Roberts, but they all do the same training and we have guys who step up and do the job," he said.
Bennett said much like earlier this month when the Broncos upset Melbourne, his players would have to take a few risks against North Queensland.
"They're a pretty disciplined team and you are not going to win up there if you don't play with some risk factor. We'll find out tonight," he said.
Bennett said he was glad this year's finals system had introduced an extra 10minutes of playing time before going into golden point.
"It gives both sides a chance to win the game and it if is still tied after that 10 minutes I accept golden point wins it because there has to be a result," he said.