Matt Scott knows his next game could well be his last but the veteran Cowboys prop has not ruled out playing beyond 2019.
Scott made a successful – albeit brief – return from neck surgery in North Queensland’s 22-16 trial win over the Titans on the Sunshine Coast on Saturday, he and fellow international forwards Jason Taumalolo and Jordan McLean playing the opening quarter only.
They are likely to play significantly more minutes in this Saturday’s trial against the Storm in Mackay as they continue to fine-tune what has been a disrupted preparation for the 2019 season.
Troubled by issues stemming from his neck for 13 years, Scott underwent surgery for the first time after the Cowboys’ 2015 grand final triumph and again last October after he was forced to miss six games due to neck problems last season.
Essentially the same procedure but in a different area of the spinal column, Scott knows that if the issue was to flare again it could well spend the end to his decorated playing career.
And he’s at peace with that.
“If I struggle to get through this year or I happen to hurt it again then I am prepared to finish,” Scott said.
“I’m extremely happy with what I’ve been able to achieve in the game. I’m very grateful for that so if I had to stop right now I’d be, not happy, but satisfied with my career.
“I know at my age and with some of the issues I’ve got I’ve got to be prepared to stop at any time now.
“It’s actually not a bad mindset to be in because I’m pretty comfortable with it.
“If it ends today or I can play another couple of years with it, I’d be very happy with it.”
Assuming Scott runs out against the Dragons in round one it will be his 252nd NRL appearance for the Cowboys having made his debut two weeks before his 19th birthday in 2004.
A representative in 22 Tests for the Kangaroos and 22 Origins for Queensland, the Longreach product hasn’t been selected for higher honours since the 2016 Four Nations tournament but retains a burning desire to wear the Maroons jersey again.
“It does. I don’t think it will ever stop,” said the 33-year-old.
“I’m not out to get my spot back. If I’m playing well and Kevvie (Walters, Queensland coach) picks me then I’ll be stoked to play, I’ll be over the moon.
“I still have a great love for the Maroon jersey and would like to experience that arena again.
“In saying that, 22 games is 22 more than I thought I’d ever play so if I never get picked again then I’m quite comfortable with that also.”
There were no guarantees when he went under the knife for a second time that Scott would make it back on to the field, his professionalism giving Cowboys coach Paul Green comfort that he wouldn’t be following Johnathan Thurston into retirement.
“There’s always that risk with any operation like that,” Green said.
“He’s pretty professional about how he goes about his rehab and stuff like that so I was always pretty confident he’d get back.”
As he contemplates how long he has left in the game, Scott also believes it is time for him to step back from the captaincy duties he has shared with Thurston since 2011.
Hinting that Green is going to revert to a sole captain in 2019, Scott said he was happy for one of the club’s younger players to take the reins.
“We need to prepare for the future now and the best way to do that is to hand it over to someone else and me to take a step back,” Scott explained. “Not in my leadership role around the club but more in my public role as a leader.”