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Rugged North Queensland Toyota Cowboys forward Shaun Fensom says he won’t look to fill the sizeable boots of injured skipper Gavin Cooper but admits the pack needs to lift ahead of Saturday’s crucial clash against the Penrith Panthers.

Fensom, returning from a rib injury in the club’s Round 22 loss to the Storm, has been one of the Cowboys’ most consistent players this year, either coming off the interchange bench or starting in the middle, which he did against the Storm.

The 153-game National Rugby League veteran and former Canberra Raider, 28, has played 14 games for his new club and is relishing the prospect of taking on a desperate Panthers side on Saturday.

“They’ll be hungry, for sure, as we will be, and having Coops out will be a huge loss for us, but we have to hunt in a pack as forwards, turn up constantly for one another and do our roles well. If we do all that, we’re confident we can put in a good performance,” Fensom said.

“We’ve had two tough, close-fought losses, but we’re still playing good footy and we know that as the season draws to a close, the stakes become higher and teams step it up a notch.”

Whether Cowboys head coach Paul Green chooses to start with Fensom or keep him fresh for later in the game remains to be seen.

He has named the New South Welshman on the interchange, but with Cooper out with a calf injury, the fourth-year Cowboys mentor has a few decisions to make as to how his final team for the Panthers game will look, meaning Fensom could start.

Shifting centre Kane Linnett to the back row is also an option, while Coen Hess could start on that left edge, as Green has some bench-rotation options in his extended 21-man squad.

Young forwards Patrick Mago and Shane Wright are in the mix, while how Green’s core forwards in Jason Taumalolo, John Asiata, Scott Bolton and Sam Hoare are to be used will also be nutted out in the coming days.

Saturday’s match kicks off at 7.30pm at Pepper Stadium.  

Acknowledgement of Country

North Queensland Cowboys respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.