Cowboys teammate backs Justin O'Neill to silence critics
RETURNING Cowboys winger Antonio Winterstein believes the door has not shut on Justin O'Neill's chances of playing for Australia in the upcoming Anzac Test.
Winterstein himself is aiming to play in the same representative round for Samoa, and despite being out of the game since round two is likely to retain his Test incumbency with the Pacific nation.
The same cannot be said for O'Neill, who endured a disappointing return from a month-long injury lay-off in last weekend's defeat to St George Illawarra.
Reports emerged that O'Neill's Test prospects were in "tatters" following the 28-22 defeat, in which O'Neill leaked two first-half tries to Dragons counterpart Tim Lafai.
But Winterstein said O'Neill was ripe to hit back against the Knights on Saturday.
"He's shown a number of times that he's a world-class centre and I've got full confidence in him that he's turn up ready to play this weekend," he said.
'It was his first game back from injury last weekend and as a team we could have helped him out a little bit more on the edge.
"But Juzzie will be looking to prove everyone wrong."
Winterstein also threw his support behind O'Neill's right-edge partner Kyle Feldt, who also had an off night.
"He knows what to do, he's one of the best under the high ball and in the air," Winterstein said.
"We've seen what Feldty can do and when he's on he's hard to stop, and I'm just looking forward to running out there with him this weekend."
Winterstein is likely to wear an arm brace for the next couple of rounds as he makes his comeback.
Winterstein could have been forgiven for feeling under threat, given how well his replacement Gideon Gela-Mosby has fared, but Winterstein - a 180-game NRL player - said competition was just part of the Cowboys' culture.
"We have some young talent coming through and it's good for the club, it's healthy," he said.
"It really pushes the team to perform week in, week out because your spot is not guaranteed."
Winterstein endured a horror start to the year, suffering a ankle sprain seven minutes into the Cowboys' pre-season trial against the Wests Tigers, before breaking his arm 13 minutes into his first game of the year against the Broncos last month.
Winterstein is no stranger to injury, and among them is a horror jaw break done during his debut season at the Cowboys and a season-ending pectoral tear.
His latest injury is at the lower end of the scale, but Winterstein was still tested.
"I just had to keep positive," Winterstein said.
"We have guys like Matt Scott who are not going to play, so it was a big eye-opener to keep positive.
"I have a got support at the club and at home with my wife, so they keep me grounded and keep me motivated to get on the field and do what I love.
"I just want to get out there, contribute where I can and hopefully put on a good performance."