Robert Lui has muscled up in defence since assuming the five-eighth role for the Cowboys.

Lui adding starch after JT shift

The finals are drawing near, they hold a current season-best win streak and the form of halfback Robert Lui has not been better in 2014, but the Cowboys still have not locked in the halves combination that will see them out for the remainder of the season.

It has been a two-horse race between Lui and good mate Ray Thompson in the battle to co-star beside Johnathan Thurston this year, with Lui holding the job until coach Paul Green called for change in Round 8. It paid immediate dividends when they trounced the Eels by 28 points but Thompson has since suffered injury, handing back the position to Lui, who has held it since their loss to Newcastle in Round 15.

When asked about the situation in a Tuesday press conference, Green was reluctant to dive into hypotheticals, simply saying: “It depends how they play,” as to who gets picked.

Shrugging off the subject with some light humour, he added: “I think JT is probably right.”

While the in-form Thurston maintains there is not much difference between playing in the No. 6 or 7 jerseys, Lui has stepped up his game since he took his captain’s number at five-eighth. The main improvement in Lui’s game is at the defensive end, where he was getting found out with regularity.
Logging games with up to seven missed tackles this season, the diminutive halfback has found consistency defensively with only five in his past three games – nearly halving his missed tackle count (1.7 per game) compared with previous games in the run-on side this season (3.2).

“You’re talking about a lot of ‘what-ifs’ there (in making that decision). There are a lot of what-ifs in key positions, so it’s really not worth talking about (unless) it happens,” Green said.

In the forward stocks, Green confirmed the clean bill of health for both prop Matt Scott and second-rower Gavin Cooper after Saturday.

“Both pulled up good. Coops was a bit tight in the hip, naturally, but everything was good.”

While Matt Scott made his return to the playing field for the first time in six months, James Tamou missed his first of the season and looks to be pushed back another week after aggravating an old neck injury in the win over the Bulldogs on June 26th.

“He is still in doubt, so I can either name him and drop him out or I can name him and bring him in, so at this stage he is still a chance to play,” Green said.

“We will prepare as if he is not playing and then if he does play at the back end of the week it is a bonus for us. He got through most of (Tuesday training). We just have to be careful with his contact at this stage, we don’t want to stir it up again. It’s one of those things where it’s very hard for medical staff to say definitively how long it’s going to take, so it will settle down when it all settles down and he’s been through it before so we’re hopeful this week, but might be next week. It’s just a case of managing the symptoms along the way and making sure we don’t do anything silly enough to stir it up.”

In other news both Cooper and Thurston sat out training on Tuesday, but Green shut the door on any injury concerns, saying it was just about both men using the time to freshen up.

“(Thurston) is basically still trying to wash some load from the Origin. They did quite a bit of work in that Origin camp so we are just trying to get him a bit more of a break to freshen him up.”