2019 squad analysis - Middle forwards

Each week Cowboys.com.au will provide an in-depth positional analysis of the 2019 North Queensland Toyota Cowboys squad.

The series continues this week with a middle forwards unit jam-packed with international stars.

The players are ranked by their NRL experience with their career number of games in brackets next to their name.

1. 2019 squad analysis - Fullback
2. 2019 squad analysis - Outside backs
3. 2019 squad analysis - Halves 
4. 2019 squad analysis - Edge forwards
5. 2019 squad analysis - Hooker 

Middle forwards

Matt Scott (251)

The Cowboys stalwart has recovered well from post-season neck surgery and is expected to be fully fit for the start of the 2019 NRL season. After struggling with injury throughout much of the middle third of 2018, Scott returned to finish the season strongly and will lead what could be one of the most fearsome middle forward rotations in the NRL next year.

Scott Bolton (228)

Bolton passed Cowboys legend Aaron Payne to become the fourth most capped Cowboy in club history last season. The 31-year-old shouldered a massive workload in 2018 with starting front-rowers Jordan McLean and Scott missing significant time through injury. A consistent performer, Bolton will again form a crucial part of Paul Green's front row rotation in 2019.

Josh McGuire (194)

One of the Cowboys marquee recruits, McGuire joins the club as the incumbent Queensland and Australian lock. With superstar Jason Taumalolo holding a mortgage on the Cowboys No.13 jersey, McGurie may be forced to back to the front row – a position he has started in 91 of his almost 200 NRL appearances.

Jason Taumalolo (162)

The 2016 Dally M winner is widely regarded as the top middle forward in rugby league and at only 25 years of age Taumalolo's best football may be in front of him. The Tongan superstar added a new string to his bow in 2018, producing a number of 80-minute performances when the side was facing an injury crisis. His combination with fellow internationals Scott, McGuire and Jordan McLean will be a scary proposition for opposing forward packs in 2019.

Jordan McLean (96)

The Kangaroos incumbent endured a difficult first season in Cowboys colours. Just four games into his Cowboys tenure, McLean suffered a serious Lisfranc injury which kept him on the sidelines for four months. His return late in the season provided the Cowboys with a significant boost as the side went on to win four of their final six games.

John Asiata (93)

Asiata was another Cowboys forward who missed significant time in 2018. A torn pec in Round 7 limited the 25-year-old to 15 games for the season, but when on the field Asiata was consistently among the Cowboys best performers. Asiata's ball playing skills have made him a weapon off the bench for Paul Green and he is expected to continue in that role in 2019.

Corey Jensen (35)

Jensen has emerged as a reliable option for Green after making his debut in 2017. The Bowen Seagulls product played 18 top grade games in 2018, including starts in Rounds 13 and 16. Jensen will again be in the mix for a bench spot in Round 1.

Francis Molo (13)

Molo ended an almost three-year absence from the NRL when he made his Cowboys debut in Round 11 last season. The talented front-rower made all seven of his 2018 appearances from the bench and will be gunning for a similar role in 2019.

Emry Pere (0)

A Junior Kiwis representative, Pere spent the entire 2018 in the Queensland Cup with the Northern Pride despite still being eligible for the under 20s. The hulking front-rower will have his eyes firmly set on an NRL debut in 2019.

Logan Bayliss-Brow (0)

Bayliss-Brow was picked in the Queensland Under 20s squad in 2018 on the back of a strong season for Cowboys feeder club the Townsville Blackhawks. Still eligible for the under 20s in 2019, Bayliss-Brow will earmark a Queensland Cup debut as a major goal.

Tom Gilbert (0)

After starring for the Queensland under 18s, Gilbert was moved up to the under 20s Blackhawks side mid-way through the season and continued to excel. The Brisbane product won't turn 19 until late in the season, but should push for a Queensland Cup debut at some point in 2019.