Cowboys eye Leilua return in Wests Tigers homecoming
North Queensland have indicated back-rower Luciano Leilua could return as soon as round 12 against Wests Tigers with the bullocking forward yet to appear for Todd Payten's side in 2023 due to an ongoing court matter.
The 26-year-old has been missing under the NRL's no-fault stand-down policy since October 3 last year after allegedly assaulting a woman known to him and smashing her phone at a home in Sydney's southwest.
AAP understands Leilua is expected to face a Campbelltown Court on Thursday May 18 with a plea of not guilty entered against charges of common assault and destroy or damage property.
A decision on his availability for the May 20 clash at Leichhardt Oval is pending the outcome his appearance.
The Cowboys are unable to name Leilua for their team list on Tuesday due to him being stood-down but can apply to the NRL for his inclusion pending the court decision.
Leilua missed representing Samoa at the World Cup across October and November after impressing for North Queensland in 2022 following a mid-season switch from the Tigers.
Coach Todd Payten said the club will await a result on Thursday and act appropriately from there.
"He's been training as per program and he's been training really well. He's had a six month pre-season to be fair and he goes to court through the week, and we'll just play the hand we've been dealt after that," Payten said.
"He's an out and out first grader. I'm sick of him tearing our team apart when he's part of the renegades.
"He's so skillful and he's a big body whether he's on an edge or in the middle. He's been a real handful for us so he'll come into the team somewhere."
Payten's troops are expected to be bolstered by the return of captain Jason Taumalolo and imposing forward Griffin Neame the following round against Parramatta as the pair make their way back from injury.
Taumalolo went under the knife to fix a meniscal issue in his knee while Neame has been sidelined since round six following a cricoid (throat) fracture.