QUEENSLAND Origin coach Kevin Walters has backed the Cowboys pack to lift collectively and fill the huge void left by Matt Scott after he was ruled out for the season with a knee injury.
The gloss was taken off North Queensland’s epic win over Brisbane when initial fears he had injured his anterior cruciate ligament were confirmed on Monday.
The Cowboys could also be without Jason Taumalolo who will front the judiciary via video link on Tuesday night to fight a one-game ban for a shoulder charge on Alex Glenn.
Taumalolo will miss two games against Manly (home) on Saturday and Gold Coast (away) next week if he is unsuccessful.
Scott will also defend a one-game shoulder charge ban on Korbin Sims early in Friday’s 21-20 golden point win in an attempt to keep a 25 per cent discount for his seven year clean record.
Cowboys coach Paul Green said Scott is “understandably devastated”.
“He’ll have surgery then start his rehab, and knowing the type of player and person he is, he’ll approach his recovery in the same dedicated way he trains and plays … with 100 per cent commitment.”
Scott’s injury is a major blow for a Cowboys pack which lost fellow veterans James Tamou and Ben Hannant after last year.
It’s also the last thing the Maroons needed after Greg Inglis suffered a season-ending knee injury of his own last week.
Walters said a number of Cowboys could come into calculations to replace Scott at Origin level.
Back rower Ethan Lowe, 18th man for Origin II last year, has proven he can pinch hit in the middle third.
Coen Hess has similar versatility and although the 20-year-old has only played 11 NRL games, he has scored two tries already this year and has the physicality to handle Origin.
“Likewise what the Cowboys are going to face, it’s not ideal for Queensland as well,” Walters said of Scott’s injury.
“We have to find someone to fill the void and there’s some blokes there, we have to see what happens over the next six weeks.
“We’ve got some options there with guys who are flexible that can move between the middle and the edges, that’s where Ethan Lowe and Coen Hess come into their own.
“Scott Bolton’s started quite impressively and it’s a different role this year (starting) with the Cowboys.
“He’s one of those guys like Jacob Lillyman and Nate Myles, you know exactly what you’re getting and that’s always positive.”
The Cowboys must also find replacements for winger Antonio Winterstein (broken forearm) and fullback Lachlan Coote (calf), both expected to miss several games.
Javid Bowen is locked in to replace Winterstein, but it remains to be seen whether Green will select teenager Kalyn Ponga at fullback.
Prop Corey Jensen was a standout for the Townsville Blackhawks in Sunday’s win over Ipswich and could vie with Sam Hoare for the vacant front row spot.
Scott is off contract at the end of this year and is being chased hard by Newcastle, but the Cowboys have indicated they will look after one of their longest-serving players.