Depleted Cowboys must win without JT - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Depleted Cowboys must win without JT

10/07/2011 03:20:59 PM Comments (0)

Neil Henry admits North Queensland's hopes of maintaining their NRL finals aspirations will depend on their ability to work out how to win matches without Johnathan Thurston.

Henry's fifth-placed side travel to Newcastle on Monday without the Queensland halfback after he sustained a medial ligament injury in the Maroons' 34-24 win over NSW last week.

The Cowboys have won just seven times in the 25 games they have played without Thurston since his arrival at the club in 2005 and must face the in-form Knights, who are looking for a fourth successive win for the first time in five years.

Neil Henry's side must also do without Willie Tonga after the Queensland centre, who has been linked with a move to Parramatta over the weekend, injured his biceps in training.

Tonga has been sidelined with a shoulder injury since May but was named in the side to face the Knights at Ausgrid Stadium.

He will be joined on the sidelines by hooker Aaron Payne (broken hand) with Brent Tate not considered despite returning to training following a knee reconstruction.

Henry is fully aware of his side's poor record without Thurston but believes the threat of throwing away their good first half to the season will be enough incentive to bring the best out of his players.

However, he admitted fearing he would be without his skipper for the year.

"There's no doubt we miss him and we don't have a great track record without him on the field, but this is our opportunity to step up and protect the points we've got so far in the competition and build on where we are," Henry told reporters.

"When it hyper-extended like that I thought his season could have been over because it looked quite nasty.

"But it was good news. It was an unlucky accident to start with, but there's an element of luck that it hasn't ruptured his ACL. We're just thankful that hasn't occurred and we'll see him out there sooner rather than later."

Knights coach Rick Stone cautioned his improving side against under-estimating the Cowboys, but acknowledged Thurston's absence is a big boost for his side.

"He's a massive part of their team and probably in the top three players in the world," Stone told reporters.

"Obviously they won't be as good without him.

"But from our point of view, we've just got to continue to prepare as well as we can and concentrate on ourselves, and realise that they've still got some potent players."

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