The NSW Blues have been named for the first game of the 2017 #Origin series.
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The Origin series always has its fair share of casualties and this year has been no different. While Melbourne Storm were the losers after the first game of the series after half-back Cooper Cronk broke his arm, North Queensland Cowboys were the latest NRL side to suffer from the gruelling nature of the games. Veterans Brent Tate and Matt Scott picked up injuries that will now keep them out of an important part of the NRL season, and at a time when the Cowboys are looking to get back into the top eight.
Tate's injury was one of the main talking points after the game, with the North Queensland star sustaining another serious knee injury that could now force him to retire from the game. The 32-year old faces the prospect of undergoing knee reconstruction surgery for the fourth time in seven years, and Tate has previously admitted he would consider his career if he suffered another knee injury.
With 280 NRL, 23 Origin and 26 Australia appearances, Tate's experience will be hugely missed by a Cowboys team in real need of its senior players to stand up and be counted. But after fighting back from ACL surgery in 2007, 2009 and again in 2010, Tate may decide to hang up his boots despite recently signing a new contract for next season.
Scott played on despite suffering a suspected fractured cheekbone and possible eye-socket damage, and the prop was forced to remain in Sydney to have surgery to insert a metal plate in his face, ruling him out of Origin III and sidelining him for up to 10 weeks. The 28-year old has been a key part of North Queensland's presence in the NRL finals in recent years, and Cowboys fans will be desperate to have Scott back in action as soon as possible.
Currently 10th in the NRL ladder, North Queensland face a real battle on their hands to try and reclaim a place in the top-eight, something is far from guaranteed with a number who bet on NRL. With six wins and seven defeats this season, the Cowboys failure to find any real sort of consistency could well be their downfall when it comes to securing a place in the finals. After reaching the finals in the past four years, it would be a huge blow to the club to drop back out of the business-end of the season.
Comprehensive victories over the Eels and Roosters have shown that is more than enough talent in this Cowboys squad to match any team in the NRL on their day. The problem for Johnathan Thurston and his team has been their failure to reproduce those performances on a regular basis, resulting in them now needing to put together a run of wins if they are going to sneak back into the top-eight before the end of the regular season.
It's certainly not going to help North Queensland to have to try and get their season back on track without two of their biggest stars, but this squad needs to find a way of making up for the loss of Tate and Scott. If they can't, it would be hard to see how the Cowboys will be appearing in this season's finals.