It was a serious enough question, but it had Robbie Fowler's manager in fits of laughter. Could the former Liverpool and England striker, at the age of 34, dominate a fledgling championship like Australia's A-League as the marquee player for new a franchise, the North Queensland Fury? George Scott, Fowler's long-time agent and spokesman, found the inquiry so humorous he could only respond with giggles and guffaws as he fronted the local and national media at Fury's base of Townsville in January ahead of Fowler's signing. Four months later, as North Queensland prepare for their first competitive outing - on Asian soil - the joke could soon be on their star import. With the start of the new Hyundai A-League season still nine weeks away, Fowler is already struggling with a groin strain that puts him under an injury cloud for today's friendly against Singapore club Tampines Rovers. He may have once been known as 'God' by the Anfield faithful, but as he approaches his mid-30s he is now showing he's a mere mortal. 'We don't want to take any chances with him,' said Fury coach Ian Ferguson. 'The priority for the Fury is to make sure he's ready for the start of the season rather than worrying about pre-season games.' As they've tried to sell tickets with the main attraction's participation not guaranteed, the organisers of Fury's visit to Singapore's Jalan Besar Stadium are getting a fleeting taste of what some of his recent clubs have also discovered. While the Fowler name still creates a buzz and might initially get people through turnstiles, the reality is that his ageing body doesn't allow him to perform as often - nor as potently - as his glory days. Fowler's mid-1990's peak - when he scored a Premier League hat-trick in less than five minutes and reached a century of Liverpool goals faster than the great Ian Rush - is more than a dozen years ago. His two-year signing by North Queensland - one of two new clubs in the A-League this season - is an expensive gamble for an otherwise unheralded squad looking to make inroads into a rugby league-dominated region of Australia. Already, Fowler has been the subject of some unflattering local press reports remarking that he might not be in the best shape of his life. 'He looks like he swallowed a bowling ball,' said Ray Gatt, football writer for The Australian newspaper. 'There's got to be doubts about his current physical condition.' But Fowler had no shortage of people coming to his defence, including Australia defender Craig Moore, captain of rival club Brisbane Roar. Fowler flew to Asia to join his North Queensland teammates from the UK, where he'd taken a break from pre-season training in Townsville. His groin problem forced him to miss the Hillsborough memorial game at Anfield on May 14. Since finishing his emotional second stint with Liverpool in July 2007, Fowler has played just 16 games for Cardiff and Blackburn, with four goals, as he struggled with hip and ankle injuries. He failed to score in three matches in a pay-as-you-play deal at Ewood Park, making his final appearance as a substitute in the League Cup against Manchester United last December. With the A-League going into its fifth season, its record with foreign imports - including marquee players who are paid above the competition's strict salary cap - has been mixed. At the age of 35, former Manchester United striker Dwight Yorke captained Sydney FC to the title in the championship's inaugural season before returning to England to play in the Premier League with Sunderland. But former Brazil international Mario Jardel and ex-England forward Brian Deane - who scored the EPL's first-ever goal in 1992 - were expensive flops. Deane's spell at Perth Glory in 2005-06 was particularly embarrassing. Underestimating the speed and physical nature of the league, the then 37-year-old ex-Sheffield United star struggled through seven matches with a solitary goal before cutting his stay short. Fowler had been previously linked to the richer Chinese Super League - evergreen Brazilian Rivaldo, after all, is cashing in at Uzbekistan's Bunydokor at the age of 37 - but was attracted by Australia's so-called Sunshine State as he considers the well-being of his wife, Kerrie, and their four children. But as one of England's richest footballers with many healthy investments, Fowler certainly doesn't need the money. With his family yet to join him in Townsville, Fowler complained of being homesick during his first couple of months on Australian soil. But things should soon improve with the Fowlers setting up house well ahead of North Queensland's A-League opener against Sydney FC on August 8. In the meantime, Fury club officials face a nervous wait as they try to sell season tickets while monitoring their big recruit's fitness. Much of the success of the Fury's inaugural campaign hinges on how much of the 27-match regular season Fowler is able to play in. Certainly, though, the early omens aren't so good.