THE WRAP: NRL round 18

NRL logoBy STEVE MASCORD

ICONIC North Queensland fullback Matt Bowen’s career is in his own hands over the next seven weeks, his coach Neil Henry has admitted.

Bowen, 31, returned from a knee injury in the Cowboys’ 34-14 Monday Night Football defeat to Manly, scoring a sizzling try with one of his first touches. He is off contract at the end of the season.

He admitted at fulltime last night he was considering retirement even though he didn’t want to. Speaking to this correspondent on the field, he said: “Hopefully soon … I want to put things to bed .

“If it means calling it quits, I’ll call it quits. But I want to play on. We’ll see what happens. I want to play some good footy first.”

But Henry says Bowen might have to wait a while to find out what he’s doing next year. The club remains unsure of whether to offer him a new contract.

In an interview for Triple M which did not air because their MNF program finished, Henry told my iphone: “The fact is, the club’s not going to resolve it until we see him playing footy, I’d imagine.

“It’s a bit of a wait and see. We’re not actively recruiting other fullbacks either at the moment. He wants to play and we want to see him play.

“There’d be nothing better than for him to regain form and get confidence from playing good footy and I’m sure the club would look at extending him by one year because he’s a wonderful player.

“It would be a real shame for him to leave this club.  I don’t think he wants to leave this club so hopefully we can resolve it one way or another.”

Henry pulled no punches in his assessment of Mango’s form before he opted for knee surgery this year.

“It’s up to the club, we need to talk about it and really, his body has to be able to sustain the rigours of the game,” he said.

“We’d all agree he’s not playing the football he played last year, when he was runner-up for the Dally M. So I think that’s fairly obvious for everyone to see.

“If he can regain that form, then that’s the form you need to have to be in that top half dozen fullbacks in the competition…  and you need to sustain that.

“Time will tell whether you can get back to that form and running the ball like he was before and making the tackle breaks he was doing because he’s an immensely talented footballer.

“But we all get older and he’s had some chronic knee problems. We’ll see. I was buoyed tonight by his effort. I thought, first game back after a long lay-off …. we’ll see how he pulls up.

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