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Kuli unleashed amid Cowboys, Dolphins contract battle

Joe Gould -

North Queensland want a fast start against St George Illawarra which is why they will unleash powerhouse second-rower Kulikefu Finefeuiaki on a seek and destroy mission.

The blockbusting off-contract 20 year old will start Saturday's clash at Kogarah due to a syndesmosis injury to regular starter Heilum Luki.

The Cowboys fought back from a 12-0 deficit to beat Newcastle 21-20 last week after a horror beginning described by prop Jordan McLean as "one of the worst starts I have been involved with" in attack.

The energy and physicality of Finefeuiaki will be crucial to rectifying that against the Dragons.

Finefeuiaki is a man in demand with Wayne Bennett's Dolphins keen to sign him for next year. Cowboys CEO Jeff Reibel has made it clear the club will do everything in their power to keep him.

Bennett confirmed that the Ipswich State High product toured the Dolphins' facilities last week.

"He is an explosive young player on the way up, with a lot of ability," Bennett said.

"We have just got to wait and see now what he does.

"There is a big opportunity because we have balance in our cap and money to spend on quality players."

Cowboys winger Murray Taulagi also has big raps on Finefeuiaki.

"Kuli has matured over the last couple of years he has been here," he said.

"He is a hard runner and likes the physical side of the game. You can definitely see that he has started to be a crowd favourite. I am just happy that he is on our side. I don't want to be trying to tackle him."

McLean has also been impressed.

"Kuli just takes his opportunities with both hands," he said.

"The energy that he brings to the field when he has been coming off the bench is really good so it is exciting for him to get an opportunity to start. He will have that opportunity hopefully for the next few weeks while Heilum's foot is getting fixed."

Reibel said recently that both Finefeuiaki and Luki were long-term projects for the Cowboys.

"They have bought firmly into our system in North Queensland and want to be part of that," he said.

"We will continue talking to their management and make sure we get the best outcome."

Joe Gould - AAP

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