by Jon Tuxworth, Townsville Bulletin
COWBOYS back-rower Ethan Lowe has revealed he's been pushed back to the bench to regain his confidence after experiencing a "scare" with his troublesome neck three weeks ago.
Lowe had off-season surgery on a pinched nerve that sidelined him for most of the Cowboys' finals campaign last year.
He copped a knock in the round-five win over Souths and his starting back-row spot was taken over by the in-form Coen Hess in last week's loss to the Dragons.
"A couple of weeks ago I had a bit of a scare but I've come through all right now, and the main focus is getting confidence back in it," Lowe said.
"It's a work in progress, the more I do the better I feel with it.
"It's been playing on my mind a little bit, it's just getting that confidence back.
"I'd definitely prefer to be starting but it will be better for me in the long run."
Lowe was restricted to 35 minutes, albeit in the middle, against the Dragons, and ran for 55 metres off five runs.
The Cowboys are looking to avoid three straight losses but will be wary of the last-placed Knights on Saturday night, with North Queensland having already dropped home games it was expected to win against Manly and the Wests Tigers.
The Cowboys' defence has been the major concern, conceding five tries in four of their past five matches.
"They're all danger games, at the moment they're all tough games for us," Cowboys coach Paul Green said.
"We've got some guys with a lot of experience sitting on the sidelines. We have to work hard for each other and try and scrap a win.
"For large parts of last week's game we were probably the better team, but at clutch moments we didn't quite stay in the fight long enough."
The Knights have pulled a selection shock by dropping skipper Trent Hodkinson, whose form has been affected by a persistent knee injury.
Green said the absence of the former NSW No.7, who has been replaced by youngster Jaelen Feeney, wouldn't affect their approach to the game.
"That's something you should ask Newcastle, we've got enough to worry about in our own backyard," Green said.
"He's an experienced and good player, he's won State of Origins, I'm sure he'll be working hard to get back into the team."
All eyes will be on Cowboys fullback Kalyn Ponga, who will play his first game against the side he will join next year.
He has looked far more comfortable the last couple of weeks deputising for the injured Lachlan Coote. Knights coach Nathan Brown said this week they will be the beneficiaries from his unexpected first-grade stint.
"I thought his second half against the Dragons was great for an 18-year-old, to do what he did in a side that was getting well beaten," Brown said.
"The more opportunities he gets, the more it helps for when he comes down to our club."