O'Donnell, Graham to return for Cowboys - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

O'Donnell, Graham to return for Cowboys

By Wayne Heming 01/08/2008 05:13:57 PM Comments (0)

Unfortunately for Cowboys coach Ian Millward, Afghanistan is not in the NRL and Playstation wins don't earn premiership points.

To get those, North Queensland have to snap a club-record 12-game losing streak against the Sydney Roosters at Dairy Farmers Stadium on Saturday night.

With aggressive forward Luke O'Donnell returning from a lengthy suspension and try-scoring ace Ash Graham back from injury, Millward is tipping a much-improved performance.

"I'd be happy with a win against Afghanistan at the moment, let alone a top-four team," said Millward, describing the returns of O'Donnell and Graham as "massive".

"I've even been playing on the Playstation, getting wins on that at the moment."

Despite coming off a confidence-boosting win over NRL leaders Manly last weekend, the Roosters have shown this season they can be vulnerable playing games they're expected to win.

They lost to the Titans last month and also to Canberra when rated "certainties".

Any complacency could be punished on Saturday night if they give the Cowboys a sniff at victory in front of their home fans.

O'Donnell's return is a big boost for the Cowboys and Millward made no secret of the fact he expects the NSW and Test forward to make an immediate impact.

"Massive," said Millward.

"Obviously Luke's got seven weeks of energy to use and we need him to go out and concentrate on his game and not get caught up any incidents that can take away from his performance.

"He's an outstanding player and he brings a lot to us in terms of his go-forward and as a defender.

"He's just a guy who inspires other players and he will make them feel comfortable.

"But we need for him not to get caught up in any outside influences."

Millward said Graham's attacking spark would give the Cowboys the knockout blow they've been lacking in recent weeks with Johnathan Thurston and Matt Bowen out of action.

"Ash finished in the try-scoring last season," he said.

"The thing about Ash, he's got great footwork and he's a player who can chime in and cause some doubts."

Having both O'Donnell and Carl Webb on deck together will help stop the roll of Roosters big men Craig Fitzgibbon, Mark O'Meley and Willie Mason.

"Carl played really strong last week, got run under his belt and I'm not sure he's a play you want to take on," Millward said.

"His go-forward was exceptional, his minutes were good and he'll give us some stability around the rucks and some authority with Luke that we've probably been lacking."

Millward said the Roosters were all class.

"They score a lot of tries from kicks. They very good at that," he said.

"They've got State of Origin halves and they're a quality team."

While Thurston (knee) is back running and training, Millward said there was no way he would be a surprise inclusion against the Roosters.

"His progress is fantastic but he won't be back until the Titans game in two weeks," he said.

"We haven't given up hope of winning games or getting off the bottom.

"We know we can't make the playoffs but we can make it interesting for some teams."

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