Recruit waiting in wings to cover Cowboys' Origin stars
COWBOYS coach Paul Green insists sentimentality will play no part in deciding if Johnathan Thurston backs up from Origin to play his milestone 300th NRL game against Penrith this weekend.
Green has named his Queensland quartet of Thurston, Gavin Cooper, Michael Morgan and Coen Hess to take on the in-form Panthers in a rare Saturday afternoon game at 1300SMILES Stadium.
It looms as a big occasion for Thurston, who will become the first Cowboy to crack the triple-century.
Thurston's 300th has been a long time coming, with calf and shoulder injuries along with Origin duties restricting him to just the one Cowboys appearance over the past two months.
But Green was adamant he would have no qualms about making his star playmaker wait another week to bring up the milestone, saying Thurston and his fellow Maroons would need to prove their fitness to take on Penrith.
"When you've got as many guys as we do in State of Origin, it's just a matter of wait and see," Green said.
"It depends how the game pans out and how much time those guys who aren't starting get in the game. We'll see how everyone pulls up and make a decision once everyone gets back here.
"At the end of the day, it's about doing your job and putting the team first. (Thurston) is a guy who epitomises that so the decision will be based around that.
"All being well, hopefully he'll be there Saturday."
Mid-season recruit Te Maire Martin has been named on an extended bench as a possible halves option if both Thurston and Morgan are unable to back up from Origin.
Martin has had just the one training session with his new Cowboys teammates after making the switch from Penrith, with the 21-year-old viewed as a potential heir to Thurston's No.7 jersey.
Green said he would be reluctant to throw Martin in against his former club with such a limited preparation, but the coach admitted he could be left with no other choice.
"It probably depends a lot on Origin. He hasn't really been here too much and he's still learning the way we do things, but that (decision) may be taken out of my hands too," Green said.
"He's fitting in. It's a big change for him and it's happened pretty quickly too so his head's probably spinning a little bit, but he's a good, young player so I'm sure he'll cope well."
Saturday's clash will also see Panthers prop James Tamou play against the Cowboys for the first time in his NRL career, but Green wasn't expecting the much-loved big man to treat it as a grudge match.
"I don't think he's the sort of guy who says too much. He's more a guy that just goes about his work," Green said.
"He left on good terms and left for family reasons so I don't think he's trying to get one up on us or anything like that.
"I think he'll probably be glad just to catch up with everyone. Obviously he'll want to play well for his new club, but I don't think that (grudge match) will come into it with Jimmy."