Cowboys INSIDER

• His teammates lovingly call him 'Pop' because of his 'grumpy old man' ways, but baby-faced Cowboys fullback Lachlan Coote is only 26 years old and has been in the NRL for eight years already. Coote is enjoying career-best form at the North Queensland Toyota Cowboys, eight years after making his top-flight debut for the Cowboys opponents this week – Penrith – as an 18-year-old. Tomorrow night’s homecoming will surely bring plenty of the Coote clan along to the match at Pepper Stadium, with the Cowboys custodian growing up in nearby Windsor.

• Coote’s birthday celebrations are among a long list of April birthdays at the club. Centre Justin O’Neill turned 25 two days before Coote, while hooker Josh Chudleigh celebrates his 22nd today (Friday 8 April). Back-rower John Asiata is 23 on April 19 while co-captain Johnathan Thurston is 33 on Anzac Day.

• Team analyst and tech guru Steve Burman’s beloved new drone was grounded on Thursday morning at the mere hint of rain. Watch this space for further updates...

• Cheers to the Cowboys fan who fronted up with nearly two kilos of recently-caught fish in return for a small favour this week...

• Speaking of fish, in-form front-rower Scott Bolton got to drop a line this week as part of a promotion for valued sponsors XXXX. Bolts is a keen angler in his down-time and enjoyed being part of the filming, which involved a couple of decent-sized muddies, we’re told.

• Recent birthday boy Justin O’Neill is nicknamed “Ferrari” or “Bugatti” on account of the outside back being a highly-tuned speed machine. High-performance staff this week joked that the Ferrari needed a slight tune-up this week after he left the game against the Dragons heavily iced on his lower limbs –normal practice for the boys, whose bodies go through plenty during a season. Insider can report that the Ferrari was firing on all cylinders at Thursday's team training and is expected to be right to go against the Panthers, keen to add to the 50-career-try milestone he brought up against the Dragons.

• Kudos to good sport and Cowboys squad member Kyle Laybutt  playing some good footy for the Townsville Blackhawks, Laybutt played the role of Panthers halfback Jamie Soward at an opposed training session this weekend, the role-playing so complete he even donned the trademark Soward headgear.