North Queensland Cowboys v Parramatta Eels from 1300 Smiles Stadium, Townsville. Cowboys Matt Scott is tackled. Picture: Zak Simmonds
North Queensland Cowboys v Parramatta Eels from 1300 Smiles Stadium, Townsville. Cowboys Matt Scott is tackled. Picture: Zak Simmonds

Scott shelves retirement talk

COWBOYS forward Matt Scott will not hang up the boots ahead of next season, but he has started to prepare for life after football.

The current Cowboys skipper revealed on Saturday that while he will play on, he is ready to give up the captaincy and could also move to the bench to accommodate new recruit Josh McGuire.

While Scott is determined to help his beloved North Queensland bounce back from a disappointing 2018 - and return from his neck injury - he has one eye on the horizon.

THE CAPTAINCY

Scott has been the co-captain of the Cowboys since 2011 when then coach Neil Henry promoted him to the role alongside Johnathan Thurston.

But as 2019 approaches, and with Thurston now retired, the veteran prop has revealed he is ready to make way for playmaker Michael Morgan.

"It might be time for a change," Scott said.

"I'm not exactly sure which way (coach Paul Green) is going to go with it. But my opinion is Morgo is the natural choice to step up to the captaincy role.

Thurston and Scott captained the Cowboys together for seven years. Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images.
Thurston and Scott captained the Cowboys together for seven years. Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images.

"I'd be fully supportive of him being the sole captain … he's the King of Townsville now."

He said the best way for Morgan to learn is to take over the reins immediately and not to share the role, especially as 33-year-old Scott approaches the end of his career.

While the co-captaincy worked with him and Thurston for eight seasons, he believes he can support Morgan in other ways.

"It's the natural progression," Scott said.

"We've had co-captains since 2011 and Johnno and I worked really well together because we're so different.

"We're good mates and we complimented each other. Trying to replicate that with someone else might be difficult."

JOSH MCGUIRE'S ARRIVAL

McGuire's move to Townsville came as one of the biggest shocks of the NRL's off-season.

The Maroons enforcer was just one year into a four year deal with Brisbane when North Queensland confirmed the signing last week.

Immediately speculation grew that the Cowboys' decision to chase McGuire was due to Scott's health, given he had surgery on his neck in October.

The Cowboys now boast one of the strongest packs in the competition, with McGuire joining Scott and fellow international players Jordan McLean and Jason Taumalolo in the middle.

And while Scott is adamant he is healthy, he is willing to step aside for McGuire and move to the interchange bench.

North Queensland have signed Test and Origin forward Josh McGuire.
North Queensland have signed Test and Origin forward Josh McGuire.

"It's not (hard) really," Scott said of the middle forward rotation.

"If it's me (on the bench), I'm comfortable with that. I'm at the end of my career. I've had a disrupted previous couple of years.

"If it's best for the team, I'm not going to be unhappy with that at all.

"If you've all got that same goal and you're all working towards that goal then something like coming off the bench shouldn't worry you.

"We've been looking for another middle forward and to get a player of Josh's calibre to the club is a great addition … he's that last missing link with our squad."

THE NECK

While others may doubt Scott's health ahead of his 16th season in the NRL, the Queensland and Australian great is not only confident he will be there come Round 1, but that he will still be standing by the end of 2019.

Scott is currently training with the rehab group after undergoing a second surgery on his neck in October and is focused on regaining his strength.

He said it is a similar injury to the one he suffered in 2015 and he first noticed he had problems ahead of Round 14 this year, when he started to get nerve pain and felt weak down his right side.

Scott has struggled with neck injuries for several years. Picture by Zak Simmonds.
Scott has struggled with neck injuries for several years. Picture by Zak Simmonds.

The surgery eased pressure on the nerves in his neck and while he said it's been a long road back, he is ready to return.

He never seriously considered early retirement as an option.

"The last couple of weeks I've really started to notice the difference with the pain going and the strength starting to return," he said.

"I'm starting to get out the other end now.

"I'm really confident that I'll play next year. I am expecting to start Round 1 and finish the year."

THOUGHTS ON RETIREMENT

Scott may have put an end to rumours of an early retirement but with one year left on his current contract, there is no doubt the end is near.

After 251 NRL games, 22 appearances for Queensland and 22 matches for Australia, Scott knows his time in the rugby league arena is coming to a close.

He does not know for sure whether 2019 will be his last year in the NRL, but he has spoken to the Cowboys about his options.

"There's been a lot of thought, not many decisions," Scott said of his future.

"I'd love to stay involved in rugby league in some capacity and hopefully I'll do that with the club in Townsville. There's a few options that I'm looking at.

"It's just a fact of life you can't play footy forever and you've got to have a plan."

But the biggest thing Scott does not want if 2019 is his final year is a massive send-off.

The laid-back prop watched this year as the fanfare for Johnathan Thurston's final season went into overdrive.

Scott was a Test and Origin stalwart for years. Picture by Peter Wallis.
Scott was a Test and Origin stalwart for years. Picture by Peter Wallis.

And while he does not expect he will receive the same farewell if he was to announce his retirement early, Scott said he is happy to go quietly.

"I'll be quite happy to use a Cowboys pun and ride off into the sunset," he said.

As for the representative arena, Scott is also not going to be forced into any decision about his future.

While he didn't earn the call up for Queensland or Australia in 2018, he will not rule himself out for either side.

"I'm not going to announce that I have retired from rep football," he said.

"The ship may have sailed with the amount of talent we have at the moment … I still think I have something to give but I'm happy with what I've achieved in the rep arena.

"If that's it, I'm happy with it."

News Corp Australia


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