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Thurston's loss could be Cronk's gain

By Steve Jancetic 12/04/2010 07:50:51 AM Comments (0)

Cooper Cronk stands to gain most from Johnathan Thurston's serious shoulder injury but it still may not be enough to earn the Melbourne halfback a start in this year's State of Origin series.

The North Queensland playmaker will undergo scans on his shoulder in Townsville on Monday with early reports ranging anywhere from one week to the season.

Thurston landed heavily in Saturday night's 23-16 loss to Wests Tigers at Dairy Farmers Stadium on the left wing he had surgically repaired two years ago.

Cowboys officials - encouraged by Thurston's recovery by Sunday morning - said they were hoping for the best, but it appears the Test and Queensland playmaker could be spending at least some time on the sidelines.

"He's got more movement in his shoulder this morning than he did last night and he had some more strength in it which is a positive," Cowboys chief executive Peter Parr told ABC radio on Sunday.

"But until we have the scans tomorrow morning and then he goes to specialist we won't know the full extent.

"It's a bit early to speculate but it's fair to say we're feeling a little bit better today than we were last night - we'll just keep our fingers crossed."

With Australia's May 7 Test against New Zealand in Melbourne just over four weeks away, Thurston is at least considered a doubtful prospect - a situation which could play into the hands of Cronk.

The Melbourne No.7 won plenty of admirers with his skill and commitment during Australia's Four Nations campaign in England and France last year - not least of all Test coach Tim Sheens.

And with the Australian side in camp for just four days before the clash with the Kiwis, Cronk's combination with Storm teammates and Test regulars Cameron Smith and Billy Slater would also be invaluable.

Sheens mentioned both Cronk and Gold Coast skipper Scott Prince as early contenders if Thurston was unavailable, but given Cronk beat out the Titans general for a spot in last year's touring party, it would appear the former has the inside running on the Test job.

But even a starring role in the green and gold might not guarantee Cronk a Queensland starting spot should Thurston's absence extend to late May with Queensland selectors a notoriously faithful lot.

Prince provided outstanding service when he stood in for the injured Darren Lockyer during Queensland's 2008 Origin campaign, and it is believed he remains the No.1 back-up should there be any issues with one of the halves.

That would leave Cronk to fill the role of utility off the bench, a job he handled with aplomb in his early days with the Storm.

Meanwhile, NSW remain no closer to finalising their No.7 with their two leading candidates - incumbent and Canterbury veteran Brett Kimmorley and Sydney Roosters halfback Mitchell Pearce - both suffering defeats at the weekend.

Once again Kimmorley - playing behind a beaten pack - looked well off the pace, and while Pearce may have been his side's best in a losing effort, he struggled to impose himself in the Roosters' 28-6 loss to Penrith on Sunday.

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