Connelly Lemuelu gets his chance.
Connelly Lemuelu gets his chance.

Injuries force Cowboys to blood another young flyer

FOR a third straight week the Cowboys will hand a young player their NRL debut due to a growing injury list.

Young flyer Connelly Lemuelu, who came across from the Bulldogs lower grades in the off-season, has been given his opportunity on the wing with Valentine Holmes ruled out.

Teenage speedster Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow, who deputised for Holmes in his NRL debut last weekend, will move to fullback with Lemuelu lining up outside Justin O'Neill on the left touchline.

Cowboys coach Paul Green said it was a deserved call-up for the 21-year-old Kiwi who has impressed on the training paddock.

Cowboys' Connelly Lemuelu brings down Broncos forward Tevita Pangai Jr. in a one-on-one tackle during the pre-season trial at Cairns’ Barlow Park. PICTURE: STEWART McLEAN
Cowboys' Connelly Lemuelu brings down Broncos forward Tevita Pangai Jr. in a one-on-one tackle during the pre-season trial at Cairns’ Barlow Park. PICTURE: STEWART McLEAN

It is a debut a long time in the making for Lemuelu, who was a schoolboy prodigy with noted rugby league nursery Keebra Park High. He shared a dressing room with Payne Haas, David Fifita, Thomas Mikaele and Tanah Boyd and while they have gone on to make their starts in the top grade he has moved from club to club searching for an opportunity.

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"He has been impressive in the off season, we felt it was a good chance to give him an opportunity," Green said.

"He is a bigger body and will give us a good strong carry out of our end. I think he is a good finisher too and has been training really well.

"It is difficult given there is no lower grade games, you have to get a feel how they are going at training. He has been impressive since he got here and deserves his opportunity."

Tabuai-Fidow will wear the number one jersey after playing three-quarters of last week's loss to the Warriors at the back.

Cowboys Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow during training at Willows Sports Complex. Picture: Cowboys Media
Cowboys Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow during training at Willows Sports Complex. Picture: Cowboys Media

While he didn't get a chance to show off the electrifying speed that made him a household name during the Nines, he still had a few silky touches in attack.

"I think his debut was pretty good," Green said. "Like most young guys when they play their first NRL game, the speed surprised him a little bit.

"That is something he has never been short of, (but it is) the speed of the game more so than how fast you can run. Things happen a lot quicker at NRL level.

"I thought he had nice touches and his talk was good. I thought he got himself into the game pretty nicely."

Valentine Holmes of the Cowboys had his foot taped after sustaining an injury during the clash against the New Zealand Warriors at Central Coast Stadium last Friday. (AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts)
Valentine Holmes of the Cowboys had his foot taped after sustaining an injury during the clash against the New Zealand Warriors at Central Coast Stadium last Friday. (AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts)

Holmes is expected to spend two weeks on the sidelines with a low grade ankle sprain.

Cowboys' vice-captain Jordan McLean will also miss Saturday's clash with the Tigers, with Jason Taumalolo taking over the captaincy and Frank Molo shifting into the starting side.

Physical youngster Pete Hola will get his first call-up of the season to come off the bench alongside a returning Corey Jensen. Ben Hampton has also been recalled to the Cowboys side in a utility role off the bench.

 

North Queensland Cowboys line-up to play Wests Tigers at Campbelltown Stadium on Saturday, June 20.

1 Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow 2 Kyle Feldt 3 Justin O'Neill 4 Esan Marsters 5 Connelly Lemuelu 6 Scott Drinkwater 7 Jake Clifford 8 Francis Molo 9 Reece Robson 10 Josh McGuire 11 Mitch Dunn 12 Coen Hess 13 Jason Taumalolo (c)

Interchange 14 Ben Hampton 15 Corey Jensen 16 Peter Hola 17 Gavin Cooper

Reserves 18 Tom Opacic 19 Shane Wright 20 Reuben Cotter 21 Emry Pere