Enari Tuala gets a chance in the centres for the Cowboys. Picture: Alix Sweeney
Enari Tuala gets a chance in the centres for the Cowboys. Picture: Alix Sweeney Alix Sweeney

Tuala to learn under experienced centre

COWBOYS coach Paul Green has backed young centre Enari Tuala to continue to improve with the influence of Justin O'Neill outside him.

Tuala made his return to the top grade in the Cowboys 18-12 loss to the Storm last weekend in what was a strong performance for the 20-year-old.

The centre made 72m from nine carries including one line break as the Cowboys ran a fair portion of its attack down his right edge.

With Nene Macdonald sidelined due to a serious injury sustained in the dying moments against the Storm, Green was forced to go to his outside back reserves for a replacement.

He found a strong one in former Kangaroos centre O'Neill, but rather than give him the centre spot he has left the 28-year-old on the wing.

"There was (a thought to put him in the centres), but I think Enari deserves another chance. (O'Neill) will certainly help Enari having that experience outside of him."

O'Neill was on fire for the Townsville Blackhawks in their Queensland Cup win over Redcliffe Dolphins last week, but it was the joy he played with that caught the attention of Green.

"I think it is important enjoying what you are playing, it is important for everyone. Guys play their best footy when they are enjoying it.

"I think we all get a bit caught up in the stress of winning and losing games of footy, but we need to remember why we do it in the first place."

Macdonald underwent surgery on his ankle at the weekend and could face up to six months on the sideline recovering from the injury.

The winger was injured five minutes before full time against the Storm when he was involved in a heavy collision with forward John Asiata.

"It has all gone well so far, (but) it is still early days. At this point it is about getting over the surgery and then we start worrying about getting back on track," Green said.

Asiata spent a long time prone on the ground with concerns over a suspected arm injury but Green confirmed it was just a hyperextension of the elbow with the forward named to start at lock against the Warriors on Saturday.