North Queensland Cowboys training from 1300 Smiles Stadium, Townsville. Jason Taumalolo. Picture: Zak Simmonds
North Queensland Cowboys training from 1300 Smiles Stadium, Townsville. Jason Taumalolo. Picture: Zak Simmonds

North Queensland’s ‘Wolf Pack’ ready to howl

Cowboys coach Paul Green is adamant Matt Scott won't be forced into an early retirement as North Queensland's "Wolf Pack" prepares to bite back in 2019.

Green will unleash one of the NRL's most imposing engine rooms when the Cowboys play their first trial against the Gold Coast Titans on the Sunshine Coast.

Former Maroons warhorse Scott is back after overcoming a neck injury, alongside Kangaroos prop Jordan McLean and Dally M Medal star Jason Taumalolo.

The Cowboys trio were dubbed "The Wolf Pack" last year by teammate Gavin Cooper and were expected to dominate rival forwards.

But McLean's debut season at North Queensland unravelled with a serious foot injury in the fourth round and Scott was limited to 18 games by the neck problem in his comeback from a knee reconstruction.

Will this be Scott’s last season? Picture by Zak Simmonds.
Will this be Scott’s last season? Picture by Zak Simmonds.

The destructive Taumalolo was also below his best for part of the season as North Queensland failed to live up to pre-season premiership favouritism and finished 13th in Johnathan Thurston's last year.

At 33 and entering his 16th NRL season, there were doubts Scott could navigate what looms as his final year with his lingering neck issues.

But Green insisted the injury wasn't a concern and North Queensland's feared forwards were ready to bounce back.

"I'm looking forward to seeing 'Thumper' (Scott) and Jordan McLean start the year well," he said.

"They had their injuries last season so both of them are keen for big seasons.

"Thumper has worked hard in the pre-season, he's really confident about the year ahead.

Taumalolo is the best forward in the game. Picture by Zak Simmonds.
Taumalolo is the best forward in the game. Picture by Zak Simmonds.

"Matt missed a fair bit of footy last year and we really missed his presence, so it's good to have him back.

"There's no reason why he can't play out the season. He is fully fit and doing all the training so that's not a concern for me."

McLean, 27, only played 10 games for the Cowboys after leaving Melbourne and was unavailable for the State of Origin series.

The 2018 season was a disaster on many fronts for the Cowboys, and Taumalolo admitted North Queensland's highly-rated forwards wanted to bounce back this year.

"A lot of people would have had high expectations after the year we had in 2017, making the grand final without Matt Scott and Johnathan Thurston," he said.

Paul Green has tremendous depth at his disposal. Picture by Alix Sweeney.
Paul Green has tremendous depth at his disposal. Picture by Alix Sweeney.

"A lot of people would have thought we'd be up there, but we didn't really live up to that and the rest is history.

"Having 'Macca' (McLean) and Matt Scott this year will be a huge boost, but we saw what can happen last year.

"There is every chance it could happen again this year if we're not prepared and ready to play."

Green will field a strong team in tonight's trial after North Queensland's pre-season preparations were hampered by recent flooding in Townsville.

Te Maire Martin and Jake Clifford will start in the halves with Michael Morgan rested and Taumalolo said North Queensland needed to start the season well.

"We had a slow start last year and never really got momentum to turn things around," he said.

"The effects of that put us under a lot of pressure. I don't think we coped with it that well."