Bowen up to the job, says Tate
QUEENSLAND winger Brent Tate says Matt Bowen is better equipped to handle the demands of Origin football than ever before, as his Cowboys teammate waits to find out if his Maroons story gets another chapter.
With Maroons fullback Billy Slater in doubt with a knee injury, Bowen is a chance to play his first Origin game since 2007 after being named in a 20-man Queensland squad for next Wednesday's Suncorp Stadium decider.
But while Bowen enjoyed his first training run with Queensland in five years at Stockland Sunshine Coast Stadium yesterday afternoon, Tate abandoned the session early and was favouring a knee.
The battle-scarred veteran has endured three knee reconstructions.
Earlier yesterday afternoon, after a lively workout at a Kunda Park boxing gym, Tate was asked to comment on what Slater was going through - based on his own experiences with knee injuries.
Tate has had a box seat to witness Bowen's rich vein of form.
He said the 30-year-old, in his 12th NRL season, was a more complete footballer than he was when his 10-game Origin career ended in 2007.
"If Matty gets the chance, I'm sure he'll excel," Tate said.
"He's a different player to when he played Origin a few years ago.
"He's a lot smarter, his ball-handling skills have improved and the way he chimes into the backline, he's probably second to none."
If Slater is ruled out, it is expected Queensland coach Mal Meninga will either shift centre Greg Inglis to fullback or bring in Bowen.
Even if Inglis gets the nod, there is a chance Bowen will be used off the bench.
Tate is confident the job will get done, no matter who wears the No.1 jersey on Wednesday night.
"It doesn't really worry me. They're both class players," he said.
"I know at the Cowboys he's (Bowen) so important to us. He's such a threat out the back," Tate said. "And obviously Gregie is a big physical presence wherever he is."
Bowen's combination with Queensland five-eighth Johnathan Thurston has been lethal at club level this season, and the evergreen fullback says there is no reason why it cannot carry over into the Origin arena.
"Johnno's been playing really well and we both work pretty well," he said.
"So I can't wait for the next few days to see if I'm playing or not, but I'm preparing as if I'm playing."