With a top four spot on offer for North Queensland and a guaranteed place in the finals the carrot for the Gold Coast both Cowboys coach Paul Green and Titans coach Neil Henry know there is a lot riding on their meeting at 1300SMILES Stadium.
Cowboys coach Paul Green on…
Fitness of Johnathan Thurston: He didn't do the whole session so he's still not 100 per cent. He wanted to do a bit of running to try and feel a little bit better so we'll see how he pulls up [on Saturday]. He's still a bit flat so he's still feeling the effects of the tonsillitis so we'll see how he pulls up after today but he's improving. I think he'll probably play but I'm not going to take any unnecessary risks at this stage.
Aerial threat of the Titans: They've got a bit of unpredictability, their halves aren't afraid to take you on, their back five are really good, not just carrying the ball but in the air as well. We are obviously aware of the threat out there particularly off kicks but also carrying the ball. We don't need to do any more work on that in particular but we just need to be good in that area. They're a good team and deserve to be where they are and they've got a shot at making the eight. They've got their strengths and there is plenty on the line for both teams so we're looking forward to the contest.
Expected impact of Jarryd Hayne: I think he'll be better the more games he gets under his belt. He's certainly a quality player which we've seen in our game in the past so the more time he gets back in our game the better he's going to be the more comfortable he feels.
Titans coach Neil Henry on…
Defeating the Cowboys at home: They've been very good at home, only dropping one game. They're playing good footy and vying for a top-four spot so it's very tight. We know that we need to have our ball control right up there. The games they've lost teams have completed at about 85 per cent and we also need to have a really solid defensive effort.
Cowboys major threats: Johnathan Thurston has been in good form but there are a lot of other players in their team. Jason Taumalolo has been a handful in the middle and their outside backs are dangerous in the carry as well. They've got a quality side but they're beatable.
Titans chances of an upset: We need to get a fair bit right but I think we've got a game that can worry them. If we control possession I think there's points in our team, we know that, but we were disappointed in how we started last week. We've got to play to our strengths and we've got a bit of ball movement in our team and really show that scrambling defence and desire to make the tackle. We're playing for our future and we need to really load up in this game otherwise it could be our last game.
Injury updates: With an extended squad in Townsville since Thursday Titans coach Neil Henry won't make a final decision on the make-up of his 17 until Saturday. The Cowboys are monitoring the bout of tonsillitis that has struck Johnathan Thurston but expectations from the Titans camp is that the North Queensland superstar will take his place in the team.
Market moves: Sportsbet punters clearly think 'JT' will be OK – there has been five times the money invested on North Queensland in the head-to-head market with the Cowboys 13-plus the best backed option in margin betting. Cowboys winger Kyle Feldt is the most popular in the first try-scorer market with Hayne mania somewhat dropping away; this is the first week since his NRL return that Jarryd Hayne hasn't been the best backed player for first try-scorer.