Cowboys ready for full-Gallen Sharks
The Cowboys seem to think they have called the bluff of Sharks captain Paul Gallen.
All week, the club has been pointing the media toward Gallen's supposed scheme to miraculously don the blue and black on Friday night after suffering what was diagnosed as a potential season-ending biceps injury just last Sunday. Gallen is now expected to be back on the field in two weeks, but the Cowboys suggest it could be much sooner than that.
Coach Paul Green kicked things off Tuesday when he said Gallen's recovery has "gotten shorter, so I'm not buying it completely".
Then it was co-captain Johnathan Thurston's turn when facing local media at the airport on Thursday's departure to Sydney.
"Yeah, I reckon he probably will play," said the Cowboys superstar, who is no stranger to overplaying his hand in front of the cameras.
"From all reports, he's not meant to but we're approaching it as if he will be playing."
And finally, assistant coach David Furner added: "We obviously have a game plan there to try and stop him."
On the field, Furner sees the need for his side to focus on themselves and what they can control, regardless of whether Gallen does suit up.
"We've set ourselves some standards and we've probably let ourselves down in games when we could have closed them off and won," Furner said.
"Two weeks ago [against the Dragons] comes to mind, but this week is just about making sure we get our parts of the game right. And I think if we do that, we put ourselves in with more than a good chance of winning the game.
"They certainly have a lot of strike in their team. Last week they scored 18 [points] in the first half and then those two tremendous wins coming from behind, so it's going to take an 80-minute effort defensively."
Thurston also put the onus on star prop James Tamou to lift after the Test forward admitted to a below par Origin Series in which he was demoted to the bench in games two and three.
In order to become more effective at the business end of 2014, Tamou has said he is looking to shake things up a bit and become a little more unpredictable by going back and tapping into more of a backyard footy persona.
Stamping his authority on the competition back in 2010, he brought a flashy, hybrid style of hard running, hot-stepping and ball-playing seldom seen by big men at the time; something that is now a fixture of the NRL with big boppers such as Canterbury's James Graham and Aiden Tolman playing more and more of the distributor role.
"We need him to [lift] obviously with 'Thumper'[Matthew Scott] and a couple of the other boys injured, so he's our main man in the middle third and we will need him to perform over the next six to eight weeks and he'll make sure he does," Thurston said.
"[Cronulla] have scored some tries over the last three weeks, I think they are about third in tries scored over the last three weeks. [It will be dangerous] if they get a bit of second-phase [play], and they've scored a fair few tries off kicks as well so our back five have got a job to do and our middle third need to be strong as well coming up against [Bryce] Gibbs and [Andrew] Fifita."