Johnathan Thurston returns to Cowboys training on Wednesday morning for testing as he targets his much-anticipated return in 2018.
The 34-year-old North Queensland co-captain underwent shoulder surgery after bravely guiding Queensland to victory in Origin II on June 21 despite playing under duress, in what was the last game he played in 2017.
Cowboys coach Paul Green told NRL.com that Thurston’s rehabilitation had been on track before the club’s post-season break and he had wanted to return early to pre-season training.
“JT had to have some days off through that (rehabilitation) period so he wanted to start a bit earlier,” Green said.
“He’ll have testing to see where he is at and what he can and can’t do, but he was tracking really well before we all broke.
“He will probably be doing some modified contact and in terms of weights and running he is not far off, but we will assess him when he gets back.”
On March 9 Thurston will line up in his 300th NRL game when the Cowboys host the Sharks in Townsville.
He will be joined at pre-season training on Monday by Cowboys prop Matt Scott who is well on track in his recovery from an ACL injury he suffered in the round-two clash with the Broncos.
Scott and Thurston played key roles off the field as mentors for the Cowboys as they surged to the grand final, while also working hard on their rehabilitation.
“They are both jumping out of their skins,” Green said.
“Even though they weren’t playing, they both went through what we all went through last season and that has made them more hungry, I reckon.
“I know that during the finals series, and towards the back end of last year, you could see a real mixture of disappointment because of what they were missing out on and also excitement.
“Part of that excitement is about getting back into training and getting back on the field in 2018.”