Cowboys ready to take a punt on star players' fitness
THE Cowboys are cautiously optimistic leaders Gavin Cooper and Lachlan Coote will make a timely return when their season potentially goes on the line against the Wests Tigers on Friday.
Back-rower Cooper (calf) and fullback Coote (ankle) were both on the flight to Sydney on Thursday afternoon and their inclusion would be a major boost for the seventh-placed Cowboys.
Battling the biggest injury toll in the NRL, the Cowboys have lost their past four games to sit just two points ahead of the ninth-placed Dragons, who have a superior for and against.
Cowboys coach Paul Green admitted he had run out of time to keep players under injury clouds in cotton wool and was hopeful the pair would make a return.
Prop John Asiata also travelled but is in some doubt after he hyperextended his elbow in last week's loss to Cronulla.
Pat Mago has been officially dropped from the 21-man squad with the Cowboys taking 20 players with them to Campbelltown.
Shaun Fensom (knee) and Antonio Winterstein (hamstring) look certain starters as the Cowboys look to avoid a third straight loss to the Tigers.
Coote and Cooper both got through the captain's run on Thursday, further enhancing their chances of playing.
"We're taking 20 so it depends how everyone gets through the flight and see how they pull up tomorrow," Green said.
"They trained well and got through the whole session. They warmed up separately because they had some rehab stuff they had to tick off before they could train.
"They finished the session without too many hiccups, all indications at this stage are good, but we still have to make sure how they pull up and go from there.
"He (Asiata) is probably one of the guys in that category. He's touch and go with what he did last week.
"This is probably the time of the year where you need to do that (take risks with injuries) given where we're at and the situation we're in.
"Earlier in the year I would probably be more cautious."
Cowboys halfback Michael Morgan has shouldered plenty of the leadership burden in recent weeks and said Coote and Cooper's experience would be a godsend given the youth they've had to blood due to injury.
"They trained today and went pretty well, so hopefully (they will play)," Morgan said.
"I'm sure it (Coote's ankle) is not 100% but he'll do everything he can to play.
"He (Cooper) just brings a level head and he's someone who, at the moment, with the team we've got in, will give us a lot of confidence with his leadership, talk and organisation."
Morgan insisted he was fine to play despite going off with a head knock for the second straight week against Cronulla.
He didn't return to the field two weeks ago at Penrith after failing a concussion test, but was able to return against the Sharks.
"I was fine. I could have stayed on but after the week before it was the safe option and it wouldn't have looked very good if I didn't go off," he said.