Cowboy Lachlan Coote will get his first taste of the top grade since 2013, named at his preferred fullback position against the Broncos at Suncorp Stadium on Friday night.
Coote’s inclusion shifts Michael Morgan out of the no. 1 jersey, while Robert Lui drops out of the side after allowing Knights centre Joey Leilua to score the match-winning try last week.
Starting the season 0-2 at home, the Cowboys have gone from the best attacking side at the back end of last year to third-worst in this season’s NRL Telstra Premiership.
“I was pretty loyal to all the guys that finished the season the way we did last year, they got first crack at it this year but we started off with two losses so I need to get something going there,” coach Paul Green said on Tuesday.
With last year’s synergy noticeably absent, Green has gone back to basics this week and named his players in specialist positions.
“[Morgan] has played most of his footy [in the halves] in his life so he’ll handle that. We’re probably better defensively with Morgo defending in the front line; a bigger body, makes good decisions,” he said.
“I think he just enjoys the space sometimes that you can get at fullback, but hopefully he can get some space playing five-eighth.
“I think (Coote) adds a little more in attack for us once we get down our end of the field. Positionally he’s played fullback all his life so he’ll be fine in terms of defence and also covering their kicks. But hopefully he’s got good pass selection when he comes into the back-line.”
With just 18 points scored over the first two games, a lack of enterprise in fifth-tackle options has cost his side, which failed to force a single dropout last week.
Much of that responsibility fell on the shoulders of Lui, who has controlled the Cowboys' kicking game over Thurston in the first two rounds.
Thurston will likely put more boot to ball this weekend with Morgan not a recognised kicker – averaging just 1.5 per game last season – but Green is confident in his combination firing on Friday.
“All through pre-season [Coote and Morgan] spent plenty of time in both positions. Probably recently because you’re preparing for games, [Coote has] probably spent a little less time [at fullback], but he’s played his whole life at fullback so it’s nothing new for him."
Meanwhile, Thurston will look to bounce back from the battering he received at the hands of the Knights last week, buoyed by the birth of his second child, Charlie Grace.
“He’s had a couple of days off with [fiancée Samantha Lynch] having a baby so I’m sure that got his mind off things and he will be ready to go [at training],” Green said.
“I think it certainly gives you something else to think about, knowing him like I do he takes losses pretty hard and if you sit around and dwell on it, it can play on your mind but having that distraction I reckon would be a pretty good thing. It’s a pretty exciting time for his family and I reckon it’ll be a good thing for him.”