MacDougall set for Cowboys return

ADAM MACDOUGALL
ADAM MACDOUGALL

In-form centre Keith Lulia is likely to be stood down from Monday night's home clash with North Queensland after suffering consecutive concussions, a setback that could allow veteran Adam MacDougall to make his long-awaited comeback.

Lulia was knocked senseless scoring a try in Sunday's 14-10 win against St George Illawarra, and Knights coach Rick Stone said yesterday the Cook Islands international was facing a mandatory week off because he also suffered a head knock in Newcastle's previous game.

Lulia's misfortune could be the lucky break MacDougall has been eagerly awaiting in what shapes as his swansong top-grade campaign.

The NRL's senior citizen, who has scored more tries (83) for the Knights than any other player, has made only two appearances this year and has been sidelined since Newcastle's loss to Brisbane on April 11.

But MacDougall appears to be winning his battle with a long-term knee injury, and his efforts at training last week convinced Stone the 36-year-old was ready to resume.

"He was close to playing against Saints," Stone said yesterday.

"I initially picked him to come off the bench, so there might be a chance for Adam this week.

"He's been training pretty well. I had a chat to him this morning and he's pretty keen."

The other option Stone will consider is shifting Wes Naiqama from fullback to right centre and allowing Knights skipper Kurt Gidley to return from Origin duty in his preferred No.1 jersey.

That would mean either Ryan Stig or Tyrone Roberts would be retained if, as expected, Jarrod Mullen is cleared to resume from a torn pectoral muscle.

"I think that's an option, too," Stone said.

"Wes was going great for us at right centre before he moved back to fullback, and I think the performance of Stiggy and Tyrone would throw some weight around that."

The NRL has recently introduced stricter guidelines relating to concussed players, but Stone said the Knights had always adhered to a policy of standing down anyone who had suffered consecutive head knocks.

"Keith has got to be doubtful, and the doc might make a call on him regardless of what his CogSport test says," he said.

"Generally it's pretty much a mandatory stand-down if you get concussed two weeks in a row. Player safety has got to come first, and we all understand that.

"Talking to the doctor this morning, it was highly likely that is what will happen."

Stone was disappointed for Bradford-bound Lulia, whose form in his six games this season has been the best of his 46-game NRL career.

Stone received mixed news yesterday regarding his tag-team hookers, Matt Hilder and Isaac De Gois.

Hilder was found to have no case to answer after being reported for high contact on Dragons five-eighth Nathan Fien, but De Gois has damaged his medial ligament and is expected to miss two games.

Former Knight Cory Paterson is likely to be named in an extended squad by the Cowboys today.

Paterson, who was released by Newcastle last month with 18 months left on his contract, played for North Queensland's feeder team, Northern Pride, in their 32-16 win against Easts Tigers 10 days ago.

"Cory went well," Cowboys football manager Peter Parr said yesterday.

"He played 60 minutes and scored a try, but it's too early to say if he'll be coming back to play against the Knights.

"He'll come under consideration."