THE Cowboys will blood monster forward Braden Uele in tonight’s highly-anticipated showdown with the Roosters, after injured veteran Shaun Fensom was unable to travel to Sydney.
The mammoth 22-year-old prop will make his debut at Allianz Stadium as North Queensland continue their push to make this year’s top four.
It is a gamble the Cowboys had to take against a strong Roosters side, after Fensom joined their lengthy injury list with a rib problem.
While Fensom is not expected to be out beyond this week coach Paul Green said he would rather be cautious around the former Raider — and he has confidence in Uele to do the job.
“He’s done the work recently,” Green said of the Mackay Cutters forward.
“One of the challenges for him this year was to be consistent back in the Intrust Super Cup and I think he’s probably done that so far. He deserves his chance.
“He’s pretty pumped. Probably the most rewarding part of my job is when you give a guy his debut. It’s a huge step in anyone’s career so it’s always good to be a part of that.”
Green said he was hoping Uele’s giant 191cm, 112kg frame would make it hard for the Roosters forwards to stop him.
The Auckland-born young gun has had a standout season with the Cutters so far and was in the top 11 contenders for The Courier-Mail Medal for Intrust Super Cup player of the year before the points went private last month.
Uele, a Junior Kiwi who moved to Australia at the age of 18, joined the Cowboys in 2015 after two seasons with the Roosters under-20s.
He has played a mix of under-20s and reserve grade while in Townsville.
He will also become the 29th player the Cowboys have had to use this season and the fourth to make his NRL debut, following on from Kyle Laybutt, Gideon Gela-Mosby and Corey Jensen, who signed a two-year extension with the club on Thursday.
Green said he had no choice but to bring Uele into the side.
“So far the guys we have used and who have debuted have done a great job for us and put us in the position that we’re in,” he said.
“(The Cowboys) is a great place for a young front-rower to learn his trade.”
Winger Antonio Winterstein is expected to be fine to make his return from a calf injury while starting prop Scott Bolton has also overcome the flu.