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Cowboy's injury opens NRL door for Ponga

NZN 20/02/2017 Scott Bailey

North Queensland winger Antonio Winterstein has been ruled out for the opening two rounds of the NRL season, paving the way for young star Kalyn Ponga's return.

Winterstein sustained a right ankle sprain in the Cowboys' 18-16 trial win over Wests Tigers on Friday night, ruling the 28-year-old out for up to three weeks.

Scans on Monday revealed he would spend two-to-three weeks on the sideline, with the Cowboys announcing on Monday he will miss the club's clashes with Canberra and Brisbane, at least.

Ponga, who has already signed with Newcastle for next season, pressed his claims for a round-one spot on Friday night.

The 18-year-old scored a hat-trick in the club's under-20s win over Queensland Cup team Townsville, outshining fellow youngster Javid Bowen.

Pressed on the matter after the Cowboys' NRL trial, coach Paul Green said he was unsure who any possible replacement would be.

Ponga made his debut for the Cowboys in last year's finals series, impressing in their 26-20 semi-final victory over Brisbane.

However, he became a player of contention in the off-season with the Cowboys refusing to release him a year early to join the Knights.

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