No Thurston, no problems: Cowboys - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

No Thurston, no problems: Cowboys

By Laine Clark 20/06/2009 09:56:52 AM Comments (0)

The stage is set for the North Queensland Cowboys to prove - once and for all - that they are not a one-man show.

And Cowboys rake Aaron Payne reckons they are finally up to the task.

North Queensland may have several notable omissions from their NRL clash with the Sydney Roosters in Townsville on Saturday night.

Livewire fullback Matt Bowen (ribs) is out while Willie Tonga (Queensland) and Luke O'Donnell (NSW) are on Origin duty.

But one name proved the talking point - Johnathan Thurston.

And fair enough - the Cowboys have won only four of their 18 games without the Queensland Origin halfback.

Thurston is again unavailable due to Maroons commitments.

But Cowboys assistant coach Michael Crawley said with a straight face on Friday: "It is not something we have spoken about.

"We haven't dwelled on it."

North Queensland may want to tell anyone who will listen that Thurston's absence is not a concern but the statistics say different - and so do the bookies.

The Roosters are dead last on the NRL ladder.

Runaway favourites to claim the wooden spoon.

Rated $501 long shots at winning the premiership by bookies.

Yet they are considered $1.83 favourites to down the Cowboys ($1.97) with TAB Sportsbet.

But Payne believed the Cowboys had never been in a better position to show that they could win without Thurston.

"You can't replace JT, he is a quality player, he is a leader," Payne said on Friday.

"But we have been training together since November. We interchanged our roles all the time at training.

"We probably have the best preparation for the absence of JT that we've ever had."

They should hope so - apart from their damning stats without Thurston, the Roosters have won 17 of their past 20 games against North Queensland.

And nine of their 11 meetings in Townsville.

Not that Payne had to be reminded.

"We definitely won't be taking them lightly," he said.

"They have lost a lot of their games lately but in saying that they have been playing well.

"You only have to look at their line-ups and they've got some great players."

While without Mark O'Meley (injury) and Nate Myles (Queensland duty), the Roosters will welcome back Willie Mason from injury.

"Definitely he (Mason) will be up for a big game, as will (Braith) Anasta and the rest of their team," Payne said.

"I know what it is like sitting on the bottom of the table and how desperate you are for a win - you throw everything at it."

The big shoes left by Thurston have been snapped up by former New Zealand Warrior Grant Rovelli who has been biding his time since being offered a lifeline during the off-season.

He has played just bit parts in four NRL games this year, battling to crack the Cowboys' Thurston-Travis Burns halves pairing.

"It was always going to be a challenge because they've got some good players in the halves," Rovelli said.

"It's been a pleasure, Johnno's a real good player so I've learned heaps off him.

"It has been a challenge but I've got the chance now to step up."

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