Cowboys prop Matt Scott.

Matt Scott has been a mainstay in the North Queensland No.8 jersey for so long it seems odd that many NRL fans thought he'd be struggling to make the run-on side this year.

With off-season recruit Josh McGuire bolstering a pack that already contained fellow internationals Jason Taumalolo and Jordan McLean, he could have easily be consigned to the bench.

But coach Paul Green stuck with the veteran front-rower as part of his starting forward rotation for the club's season opener against St George Illawarra in Townsville on Saturday and McGuire has been named on the bench.

"I've been here a long time so Greenie's showing me a little bit of respect there, but I still think my form through the trials has warranted a starting spot. I'm glad that's the way he wanted to go," Scott said.

"In saying that I think with the pack we've got, the rotation, anything could happen. It could change week to week and I'm certainly not expecting my spot cemented for the whole year but fingers crossed I play well enough that it is."

Cowboys forwards Matt Scott and Josh McGuire.
Cowboys forwards Matt Scott and Josh McGuire. ©Scott Davis/NRL Photos

Scott has had more than his fair share of injuries in the last couple of years, most recently the neck ailment which sidelined him for a large chunk of the 2018 season.

Despite the setback he still managed to finish strong and celebrate a milestone as only the third player in club history to play 250 games.

As he enters his 16th consecutive season with the club, Scott told NRL.com he felt "a lot better than this time last year".

"I had a less disruptive pre-season, I got a lot more work done, I felt pretty comfortable with how I was physically.

"It might take a few weeks still, it's always hard after major surgery but hopefully it doesn't take too long to hit some of my best form," Scott said.

For the first time in eight seasons he'll also start the 2019 season without a captaincy role, a position which was given to Michael Morgan. He was expecting the role would move on to the next generation after he shared the leadership alongside Johnathan Thurston for several years.

"I'd spoken a lot to Greenie even last year about what was going to happen. Knowing that JT was retiring and I was playing on, I agreed with the plan of making a change now," Scott said.

"And it made sense, we saw what Morgo did in 2017, he signed a long-term deal, he's probably the natural successor and choice. Starting fresh with a new captain, new vice-captain [McLean], and still myself, Gavin Cooper and guys like that around to give Morgo support."

Another player who was no guarantee of making the starting side was Maroons forward Coen Hess, who has spent the majority of his first three seasons in the Telstra Premiership from the bench.

Match: Cowboys v Dragons

Round 1 -

Full Time
Cowboys

Home Team

Cowboys

Scored 24 points
Dragons

Away Team

Dragons

Scored 12 points

Venue: 1300SMILES Stadium, Townsville

Match broadcasters:

  • Foxtel
  • LIVE PASS

Hess has been handed a second-row berth for the opening whistle against the Dragons and wants to retain the role all season long.

"I still felt pretty nervous before the round one team came out but the nerves were obviously gone when I saw my name there and I can just focus on my role in the team this week," Hess said.

"[St George Illawarra] have always got a pretty strong forward pack and you know you're in for a really tough physical battle. We're just focused on getting the result, we'll just worry about ourselves.

"From their back-rowers through to the hooker and the front-rowers, there's a lot of representative players in there, a lot of guys that are really powerful, good runners of the ball and very physical."