RISKY: Lachlan Coote might need to play for the Cowboys against the Wests Tigers this week.
RISKY: Lachlan Coote might need to play for the Cowboys against the Wests Tigers this week. DAVE HUNT

Desperate Cowboys to risk injured players

COWBOYS coach Paul Green insists his players still believe they can go deep in the finals despite an injury crisis he described as one of the most challenging periods ever for the club.

Green said the situation made it more likely he would take a punt on the fitness of some stars to ensure the club played in September.

Gavin Cooper (calf) and Lachlan Coote (ankle) were both named on the extended bench for Friday's crucial clash with Wests Tigers.

Winger Antonio Winterstein has been named to make his return from two weeks out with a hamstring injury, while Shaun Fensom (knee) looks set to bolster the middle third.

In another boost, the elbow injury suffered by John Asiata in Saturday's loss to Cronulla wasn't as serious as first thought, and he trained strongly yesterday.

Coote looks the least likely to play after failing to train with the main group.

Green joked the Cowboys jumping from eight to seventh on the ladder despite a fourth loss on the trot could be the change of luck they've been searching for.

His delayed naming his team as he searched for 17 fit bodies to travel to Campbelltown.

"It's a bit challenging at the moment. There's a few guys who are borderline and we won't know until right up until the last session whether or not they're fit," Green said.

"We're about to come out of what has been one of the most challenging periods for the club, since I've been here anyway. I'm very proud of the boys and how they approached it.

"They haven't stopped competing even though they've been given plenty of reasons to roll over, but they've refused to do that.

"If you hang in long enough it does turn for you. Maybe the Manly-Canterbury result was the start of a change of luck for us.

"If we were to take the attitude the world's against us and we've got these injuries and we're no chance, we won't be a chance. But we've shown we can compete against the best teams.

"It's really important we retain that mindset because we have plans to go deep in the finals and everyone needs to have that mindset throughout the club, and I think they have."

The Cowboys are ahead of ninth-placed St George Illawarra by two points, and the Dragons have a superior for and against with two rounds remaining.

"We don't have the luxury of too many more weeks left and where we're sitting on the ladder, it probably puts us more towards that position than being a bit cautious," Green said.

"Just having that experience back would be the best thing. We've had young guys making debuts all across the field which make it tough in tough games, and we've had plenty of those in recent weeks.

Green said Kalyn Ponga's shoulder injury he played on with for 40 minutes isn't as bad as expected and is a chance to return over the next fortnight.

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