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O'Donnell, Payne ruled out for Cowboys

06/07/2009 06:58:24 PM Comments (0)

The spirit of 2007 will need to be conjured by a depleted North Queensland after Aaron Payne and Luke O'Donnell received horror news from Cowboys medical staff on Monday.

Just hours after NSW backrower O'Donnell was told he would be out for 4-6 weeks with a knee injury, influential rake Payne's worst fears were realised when he was ruled out for the rest of the 2009 NRL season.

O'Donnell had his Origin III hopes dashed when scan results on Monday confirmed he had suffered a grade-two medial ligament injury during the gutsy 24-4 win over Cronulla at the weekend, in his 100th game for the Cowboys.

And Payne will require surgery on a torn pectoral muscle also suffered in last Saturday night's game, his 150th for North Queensland.

They were added to an injury list that already included the likes of Queensland Origin hopeful Ash Graham (foot, three weeks), back-up rake Clint Amos (knee, season) and ex-Maroons flyer Shannon Hegarty (back, one week).

However, Cowboys boss Peter Parr said history had shown that it took more than a worrying injury toll to sour their hopes for 2009.

He cited 2007 when North Queensland overcame a string of injuries - including O'Donnell following the infamous, season-ending "wishbone" tackle - to reach the preliminary final.

"We've had these setbacks before," Parr told AAP.

"In 2007 everyone thought we would be under the pump when we had a lot of injuries and Luke was wishboned and out for the year - and we finished one win away from the grand final.

"In 2007 we showed what we could do under a lot of adversity.

"Also in 2004 Glenn Morrison had a bad back, Matt Sing broke his jaw, Kevin Campion ruptured his bicep and we made the finals that year with unheralded players.

"And I believe we have more depth now than we had on those two occasions.

"While those injuries will have an impact, injuries happen and it is how you handle it. We need to get on with life."

Parr said their effort against the Sharks augured well for the undermanned Cowboys.

North Queensland played almost the entire second half with only 14 men, with winger John Williams also suffering a badly corked thigh.

Yet North Queensland (9-7 record) still racked up their sixth win in eight games to move to fifth on the NRL ladder.

O'Donnell had only returned to NRL action in that match after suffering another knee injury in NSW's Origin II loss in Sydney.

"Once again the footy gods haven't smiled on Luke. But he has handled every other setback of his career well and I am sure this will be no different," Parr said.

"The thing with Aaron's injury is that we have lost Clint Amos for the season as well."

Vice-captain Payne came from the field just 12 minutes into the Cowboys' courageous victory - ending a run of 87 straight games without injury for the livewire.

Anthony Watts is expected to step up at hooker for the injured Payne.

Parr did not believe the injuries placed more pressure on inspirational skipper Johnathan Thurston.

"I don't think pressure has got to too many of the great players - and I put JT (Thurston) in that category," he said.

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