Cairns product Segeyaro steps up for NQ Cowboys
TWO months ago North Queensland hooker James Segeyaro was shattered, convinced he would never again play for his hometown club.
Now the Cairns product, who has just 32 NRL games under his belt, is poised to be the Cowboys starting hooker in one of the biggest games in the club’s history.
Segeyaro, bound for Penrith next season, is expected to replace retiring legend Aaron Payne (pictured), who is battling to be fit for Friday night’s knockout semi-final against the Sea Eagles at Allianz Stadium.
Payne was last night named in the team but coach Neil Henry admitted the knee injury the hooker suffered in last week’s derby win over Brisbane was unlikely to heal in time.
Even if Payne does play, he will see limited minutes.
The unpredictable but exciting Segeyaro was shaping as one of the finds of the season before being ruled out for the year with an ankle injury in the Cowboys’ 12-28 loss to the Gold Coast Titans in round 13.
Somehow, he defied the odds to return for the last game of the regular season, before pumping out 70 minutes last week against the Broncos when Payne was injured early.
"After I did the ankle I didn’t think I would play for the Cowboys again, I was pretty disappointed," Segeyaro said.
"I thought that was it for me.
"The trainers here told me that players have recovered in 11 weeks or so before and I thought I just have to do everything I can to try and make it."Segeyaro, who could not run because of his ankle, did endless laps in the pool and circuits on the bike, hoping that maybe his ankle would heal in time for a swansong.
"I really had to keep my skinfolds down and stay away from carbs during that time just in case I came back," Segeyaro said.
"It was certainly worth it.
"I don’t feel under pressure, I’m just excited."
Segeyaro stirred up Manly fans, who are in the gun for their famous reluctance to leave Sydney for games away from Brookvale.
Suggesting there could be more Cowboys fans at Allianz than Manly, Segeyaro yesterday launched a Twitter petition for airlines to drop fares to Sydney.
Coach Henry believes his Cowboys can send the defending premiers packing in straight sets, with or without Payne.
Manly have won four of their past five clashes with the Cowboys and when they met in the finals last year, the Sea Eagles handed out a 42-8 drubbing.
North Queensland also have an appalling Sydney record, winning just four of 25 games in the Harbour City since 2008.
But a five-game winning streak, and a club record-equalling 7-5 away run this year, has the Cowboys in good shape, Henry said.
"We will go down there with some surety that we can play football and we have been playing it well," Henry said.
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Lucky break: Cairns product James Segeyaro is poised to play an on-field role for the Cowboys in this weekend's Elimination Final against Manly. Picture: ZAK SIMMONDS