'Tough' Thompson to partner Thurston
North Queensland utility Ray Thompson will get the first shot at partnering star halfback Johnathan Thurston in the Cowboys' title tilt, named at five-eighth this week in place of the injured Michael Morgan.
The Cowboys were one of the league's healthiest clubs just a few days ago, but injuries to prop James Tamou and Morgan mean that coach Paul Green is now adopting a "see how the team plays" approach this week.
Playing out of dummy half for the Townsville Blackhawks at Intrust Super Cup level, Thompson beat fellow Blackhawk and full-time half Robert Lui due to his defence.
While Lui holds his own at state level, Green says the physicality of first-grade better suits the "tough" Thompson.
"I just think defensively he's probably a better option for us," Green said on Tuesday.
"He will be pretty clear in what his role is this week. I want him to defend well, ball-play when he gets an opportunity and kick when he gets a chance as well.
"He's a tough competitor, Ray. The game he played for us against Newcastle where he came on and hadn't played for a few weeks and virtually played 80 minutes at hooker. That shows the toughness of the kid and that's what wins you big games, tough players.
"I think the luxury of having Rory [Kostjasyn] on the bench is that he covers just about every position on the field."
In the wake of a three-try performance against the Warriors, right winger Kyle Feldt has kept his spot above Matthew Wright, but it comes with a warning.
A victim of inconsistency and the occasional bad read defensively, the former junior Kangaroo will need to maintain consistent performances or last week's hat-trick in New Zealand will mean nothing.
"It's a week-to-week thing [for Feldt], we need consistency," Green said.
"We're coming into some big games, so being able to play tough is really important. He played well last week, he got the job done for us, so he holds his spot and it's up to him to keep it. It's important that guys want to be in the team."
Meanwhile, the Cowboys welcome back Thurston's sidekick on the left edge Gavin Cooper after a fractured eye socket kept him out for a week, and Scott Bolton also returns from a pectoral strain.
"Good to have Coops back in the team. He's jumping out of his skin actually, he's had a week off and feeling pretty fresh and raring to go. Bolts as well, the week off for him probably did him good as well," Green said.
"You don't like to lose guys to injury but there's a positive you can take out of it, gives them a bit of a freshen up."