Cowboys return following Origin drubbing

Valentine Holmes has made himself available for North Queensland's clash with Manly on Friday.
Valentine Holmes has made himself available for North Queensland's clash with Manly on Friday.

Valentine Holmes and Coen Hess will return to North Queensland's side ahead of Friday's showdown with Manly, but State of Origin debutant Kyle Feldt has been ruled out.

Feldt was in obvious discomfort after suffering a lower glute injury in the heavy loss to NSW, but Cowboys coach Toddy Payten says his omission won't affect the team's preparation for a difficult away trip to Brookvale.

"We've left him out, he's copped a knee in the back there's quite a bit of a bleed," Payten said.

"We could potentially give him another 24 hours and see how he pulled up and make the call then, but I just thought with the travel, where our team's at and how we've trained through the week, it's just a cleaner preparation.

"Val (Holmes) is right to play, he's very keen.

"The words coming out of his mouth is that he just wants to win and he's pretty fired up to go again."

Justin O'Neill comes into the side as Feldt's replacement but Payten wouldn't speculate on how his backline would shape up.

He was also cautious as to whether Manly star Tom Trbojevic would back up his man-of-the-match performance for the Blues.

"He's a terrific player, so important not just to them (Manly) but to New South Wales and Australia," Payten said of the fullback.

"He had a really good game last night, he'd be pumped. We'll just have to wait and see and if he's named, and defend accordingly."

While contemplating the difficult task Manly poses, Payten said his team this week had returned flat following the bye.

Although the Cowboys entered the halfway point of the season with a 50 per cent win record, after turning around a horror start to win six of their last eight matches, the coach says his side has lacked rhythm.

"If I'm honest I thought we were flat on Tuesday, and today (Thursday) I thought we were a bit more out and about," Payten said.

"(With the bye) I guess the loss of rhythm or training rhythm plays a part in that, physically.

"We're playing Manly on a Friday night in a testimonial for Bozo (Bob) Fulton and they'll be emotionally driven.

"The New South Wales players are coming on a high. We know what we're walking into and we know how we need to turn up."

In what could be an important fixture as the NRL passes its halfway point, Payten was very clear where his troops need to front up.

"Always through the middle," he said.

"Games are won and lost through the middle with the way physically that we carry the ball, defend and move.

"They've (Manly) got some pretty smart and key players that put the icing on it and that's where we've improved too as a team.

"That's where we need to be strong."

Australian Associated Press