Johnathan Thurston was injured at the end of the Cowboys shock loss to the Wests Tigers.

Hodges: Why Cowboys are in trouble

We saw some pretty significant injuries to both Johnathan Thurston and Ben Hunt in Round 6 and while there's no question that both North Queensland and Brisbane will be affected I think the Cowboys could be in real trouble if they are without 'JT' for a month or more.

The Cowboys have already been knocked around with injury this year with Matty Scott, Lachlan Coote and Jake Granville all spending time on the sidelines and if JT's calf injury is in any way serious I think they could really struggle.

We've seen the last couple of weeks even with JT in the team that they've been well below their best, so the way I see it, they're in a lot of trouble until he gets back. You simply can't replace a player such as JT and with him out it's going to leave a massive hole.

The same can be said for 'Hunty' at the Broncos. He is a massive loss but I thought when Kodi Nikorima came on he gave them a bit of a spark and provided an impact in that short little stint that he had.

There are not many players that possess the speed that he does around the ruck but we'll have to wait and see whether coach Wayne Bennett uses him there straight away.

I remember during my career the couple of times that we lost Darren Lockyer to injury and when you lose your leader you lose the guy who does a lot of the talking, gets you around the park and who takes control of games.

It does leave a massive hole in your side and you can't replace it, no matter who you put in there because everything feeds off those guys, around the training paddock and then on to the footy field.

There were times when we lost 'Locky' and our whole attack and even defence fell out of whack because he ran everything and that's what those great players bring.

They bring calmness to everyone and make sure everyone knows where they need to get to on the field and which player they need to get to in defence. You can't replace that and it probably won't be until Thursto and Hunty get back that the teams will get back in sync.

Over the next couple of months we're going to see some different combinations in different spots so both the Broncos and the Cowboys have to stick tight and make sure that the guys that come in do their own job and buy into what the team wants them to do.

The flipside to injuries to key players is that it gives other players a chance to shine.

When you have champion players in your side sometimes players around them can be reluctant to stand up or get involved so now is their time to step forward and really show their coaches what they've got.

A lot of the pressure at the Cowboys is going to fall on Michael Morgan and while there's not a whole lot that he has to prove, without Thursto we're going to see what type of player he really is.

He's going to have to run the side and take a bit more control where before he just used to feed off the back of Thursto. He's a fantastic runner but now he has to step up and take more of a leadership role and get the boys around the park a lot more than what he used to.

I said a couple of months ago that I didn't see Kodi as the obvious successor to Hunty as the Broncos halfback from next season but the next eight weeks will tell us whether he is up to it or not.

Because he is only a little bloke, teams will target him in defence but he's pretty courageous for his size and is a guy who will put his body on the line.

This is a huge opportunity for him to stand up and show the club that they don't have to buy someone else because he is a fantastic footballer and is capable of stepping in and doing the job.

That's what the club is waiting for, that's what he's been waiting for and now that he has got his opportunity he's got to make sure he takes it with both hands and keeps playing the way that he's been playing.

This is his chance, let's hope that he takes it.

 

Final thought

It's fair to say I didn't have the Dragons anywhere near the top of the table when I did my predictions at the start of the year but I'm sure I'm not the only one that they have surprised.

The Dragons are on fire at the moment and while it's only early in the competition let's hope they can continue it on because it's great for the game when the Dragons are going well.

It looks as though everyone there is very clear about the job they have to do each week and Josh McCrone has slotted in really well next to Gareth Widdop in the halves.

Gareth is more of a runner and with McCrone getting the team around the park Gareth is taking over at crucial times which is what all the great players do.

'Mary' McGregor has got his players performing their individual roles really well which is why they are playing so well as a team and enjoying the success that they're having at the moment.