Two champions of the game returning to the field. A new look Tigers side. And a forecast of 32 degrees with 80 per cent humidity.

The conditions are ripening to make Saturday's pre-season clash between the North Queensland Cowboys and the Wests Tigers as hard as they come and while both teams will maintain it's only a trial, in the end, they are there to win.

No one embodies that competitive spirit more than Cowboys co-captain Johnathan Thurston and in his first game back from a long-term injury, he'll be keen to make his mark and test his healed shoulder in a game environment. 

"I've done all the work, so in my own mind I know I'll be right," Thurston said. 

"It's been a long journey, it's been a tough journey but there's light at the end of the tunnel now."

"I've been training extremely hard alongside the rest of the boys and I'm just excited to be up here in Cairns and be able to play a match."

Thurston isn't under any illusions that he'll have it all his way, and he's ready for the Tigers to throw plenty of bodies his way.

With a host of new players in the squad, including Kiwi international Russell Packer, Chris McQueen and Josh Reynolds, the visitors will be eager to test out some new combinations.

North Queensland Cowboys half Johnathan Thurston.
North Queensland Cowboys half Johnathan Thurston. ©Scott Davis / NRL Photos

"[They'll probably bring] plenty of enthusiasm, they've got a whole new-look team, a few new arrivals as well so they'll be bouncing out of their skin to play," Thurston said.

"I think they've been training for a very long time so no doubt they'll be itching to get out there and whack a few blokes."

As for the weather, Thurston is confident his team will deal with the heat better than the side from Sydney, but is under no illusions that it will make their lives easier.

"I think it will [help us], but not too sure if we're playing in halves or quarters; hopefully it's quarters to give them a rest, and us," the co-captain said.

Another man returning to the game after an even longer absence is forward Matt Scott, and with a job less enviable than Thurston's, the Queensland front-rower has a simple philosophy for his return from injury.

"The less you think about it, the better. Just catch the ball and run," Scott said.

"It's been a while so I'm really looking forward to it. I'm at the stage now where I sort of just want to get this first game out of the road and have a good solid hit out and tick that box off I suppose."