Justin O'Neall will play his first game since May 25 last year on Saturday night.
Justin O'Neall will play his first game since May 25 last year on Saturday night.

Cowboys’ O’Neill desperate to get back on the field

COWBOYS centre Justin O'Neill says he won't be holding anything back when he makes his return from a life-threatening spleen injury in Cairns on Saturday night.

The 28-year-old former Kangaroo will play his first game since May 25 last year, when he suffered the serious injury in the Cowboys' 22-16 win over the Raiders.

After rupturing his spleen in the Round 11 clash, O'Neill spent four days in intensive care in a Canberra hospital following emergency surgery, including three blood transfusions, that saved his life.

Speaking to the Cairns Post on Thursday, O'Neill said he couldn't wait to break his longest stay away from the game.

"I'm just keen to get out there, clean some of the cobwebs off and get a game of footy under my belt," he said.

"I haven't played since May last year, which is probably the longest stint that I've gone without playing the game.

"But the body, in terms of physically, it's 100 per cent ready to go.

Justin O’Neill has itchy feet. Picture: Stewart McLean
Justin O’Neill has itchy feet. Picture: Stewart McLean

"In a way, it was probably a good thing, I got to rest a few niggles that I was carrying through last year.

"I'm just keen to get back into it again.

"There's a few boys I haven't played much footy with yet, so I'm keen to see how that goes."

O'Neill scored eight tries in eight games last season and had shown signs of getting back to his best form before the bizarre injury almost ended his career.

"It was pretty scary," said the former Maroons centre.

 

 

"I'd never really heard of a spleen injury before and it definitely wasn't the first thing that sprung to mind when I realised that things weren't really right.

"It was a pretty close call, but I'm just thankful and grateful that I was able to get it fixed when I did and that I'm back to full health.

"The surgeon said it healed quite well and there shouldn't be anything else to come from it, so that's all good."

O'Neill will start at centre in Saturday night's trial match against the Broncos at Cairns' Barlow Park.

The match will also deliver the long-awaited return of Valentine Holmes to rugby league.

Valentine Holmes and Cowboys teammates arrive at Cairns Airport ahead of Saturday's trial game against the Brisbane Broncos. Picture: Stewart McLean
Valentine Holmes and Cowboys teammates arrive at Cairns Airport ahead of Saturday's trial game against the Brisbane Broncos. Picture: Stewart McLean

The star fullback will play his first NRL game in 519 days after returning to Australia following his attempt to earn a full-time contract with NFL franchise the New York Jets.

"There's been a lot of questions about how's he going to go after going away from rugby league and coming back, but seeing him around training, he's still as sharp as he was and he hasn't lost any speed," O'Neill said.

"I think he's going to go really well for us.

"I'm pretty excited to see how he goes and play off him.

"I'll be looking for him if I make a break."