Wait almost over for Winterstein - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Wait almost over for Winterstein

Laine Clark 05/04/2011 06:31:30 PM Comments (0)

Defending Kalifa Fai Fai Loa can be as difficult as pronouncing his name.

North Queensland coach Neil Henry admits the livewire winger's defence - or lack thereof - may have opened the door for Antonio Winterstein's long-awaited Cowboys debut.

Winterstein has not been sighted since breaking his jaw in a February pre-season trial against Brisbane.

And it seemed the former Broncos flyer was no closer to donning the Cowboys colours after hulking Kiwi Fai Fai Loa scored two tries in as many games for North Queensland.

He even drew praise from Henry after their last round narrow loss at Parramatta where Fai Fai Loa capped a brilliant long-range individual effort by crossing with a "superman" dive.

But his efforts at the other end of the field may prompt a change for Friday night's Townsville NRL clash with a rejuvenated Gold Coast.

Indeed the writing appears to be on the wall for Fai Fai Loa after Winterstein was named on an extended six-man bench along with recovering backrower Scott Bolton (calf) on Tuesday.

"He (Fai Fai Loa) has certainly been very good scoring tries but our edge defence has been quite poor ... and under the high ball - well, that was the difference the other night (against the Eels)," Henry said on Tuesday.

However, the Cowboys coach will wait until the last minute before making a decision on Winterstein.

"I am governed a bit by where he is mentally, coming back from that injury, and how he is training," Henry said.

"But he has been very confident and safe at training.

"If he gets the thumbs up we will have a look at him.

"He's an established first grader - he had an outstanding year last season.

"He certainly comes into the mix."

The addition of Winterstein and Bolton - who was injured in the first round - ensures only their other high profile recruit, Brent Tate, is the only player on the Cowboys injury list.

Tate is targeting a round 16 return from a serious knee injury he suffered in last November's Four Nations final.

Winterstein's comeback could not have been better timed with another Cowboys winger - Michael Bani - diagnosed with an ankle injury that may sideline him for three months.

Henry was also concerned by the Titans' breakthrough season-opening win against the Raiders - a morale-boosting golden point 23-22 last round victory in Canberra.

The Titans have been further boosted by the return of No.7 Scott Prince (hamstring) and hooker Nathan Friend (shoulder).

"They are expecting a few players back and they are a dangerous side now they have a monkey off their back - they will come up here with a spring in their step," Henry said.

"And we are a bit deflated on the back of our loss.

"We had a real crack at Parramatta but came up short - now we are running into three games in 12 days."

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