Aaron tipped to bring Payne for Cowboys - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Aaron tipped to bring Payne for Cowboys

By Laine Clark 06/06/2008 07:44:11 PM Comments (0)

Another memorable chapter in the North Queensland-Wests Tigers rivalry is set to be written on Saturday night, according to Cowboys coach Ian Millward.

It's a big call considering their clashes have included Hopoate's 2001 "Fingergate", a classic 2005 grand final and the infamous Luke O'Donnell "wishbone" tackle of 2007.

But Millward has tipped more fireworks at Campbelltown Stadium, talking up the showdown between rival hookers Aaron Payne and Robbie Farah.

The Cowboys of the past would play down their chances without playmaker Johnathan Thurston who is in Queensland Origin camp.

And rightly so - they have a paltry 27 per cent winning record without him.

It is 56 per cent with him holding the reins.

But Millward - preparing for his second game at the helm - hardly backed down when his team flew out for Sydney, all but pinning the Cowboys' hopes on their hooker Payne.

"I think the duel between Farah and Payne will be outstanding," he said.

"If Farah had not been injured a while back he would probably be the State of Origin hooker (for NSW).

"And we want to play off the back of Aaron. He can give us some great leverage to win the game."

The Cowboys have learned from past mistakes by resisting the temptation to switch Payne into the halfback role vacated by Thurston.

When Thurston was on Origin I duty, Payne was named at No.7 - and the Cowboys were thumped 38-6 by Manly.

Millward has kept Payne at No.9 and slotted former Manly half Travis Burns into halfback.

While Thurston is considered the Cowboys' inspirational leader, Millward left no doubt as to who was their "go to" man without him.

"We feel with him dominating with his hands on the ball he will give us an opportunity (to win)," he said pf Payne.

"He will play 80 minutes. He did it outstanding last week."

Burns combined well with Thurston last weekend in his comeback match from a shoulder injury.

He will be partnered by former Newcastle Knight Daniel Abraham.

"It's a great opportunity for Travis. He gets a chance to direct us around the park without Johnathan being there," Millward said.

"He's been out with injury. He didn't play a full game last week but that was under our instructions just to get him up to the mark because we knew this week would be important for him.

"We are happy with his progress. He is playing with a bit more confidence but it is a big test against a really good Wests Tigers team."

Millward's first game at the helm was a 19-18 golden point loss to Penrith in Townsville last weekend.

The close shave has hardly broken North Queensland's spirit despite slumping to second-last with a 3-8 record.

"A loss won't break our spirit," Millward said.

"The attitude at training is good, we are making good progress.

"As long as we are moving forward that's important - but we would love a win."

The Cowboys have been bolstered by Carl Webb and Jacob Lillyman who were dumped from the Queensland Origin team.

"It's an important game for Jacob and Carl," Millward said.

"I think they want to prove to everyone that they love to play Origin and they want to be given that opportunity again and by playing well they will."

For the Tigers, an infected knee is expected to keep Tigers prop Bryce Gibbs out for 3-5 weeks.

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