Thompson set to play pivot

Townsville Bulletin - - NRL - by Antony Ste­wart antony. ste­wart@ townsville­bul­letin. com. au

C O WBOY B e n J o n e s l e a p - frogged Dane Ho­gan in train­ing fri­vol­i­ties yes­ter­day, but Ray Thompson jumped to the head of the queue for the piv­otal fiveeighth spot.

The pair spent the bulk of the pre-sea­son play­ing off for the right to part­ner star Johnathan Thurston i n t he halves i n Fri­day’s round one NRL block­buster against Bris­bane.

Nei­ther did their chances any harm, ei­ther.

But af­ter a rain-af­fected prac­tice yes­ter­day, coach Neil Henry gave his clear­est in­di­ca­tion yet that lo­cal prod­uct Thompson had won the battle for the cov­eted No. 6.

‘‘ We’ll have to have a look at that,’’ he said ahead of to­day’s team an­nounce­ment.

‘‘ Ray’s got the most time in the halves out of the two of them and Benny Jones has shown his util­ity value, hav­ing a run at hooker as well as the halves.

‘‘ So we’re prob­a­bly to­wards that.’’

lean­ing

What­ever the case, Henry will pray for dry weather when they hit Bris­bane to­mor­row.

The Cow­boys were forced to train on the astro-turf of Townsville hockey yes­ter­day af­ter their home base in Kir­wan be­came a vir­tual swamp un­der the del­uge of rain.

It robbed the team of a vi­tal s c h e d u l e d o p p o s e d s e s s i o n against their un­der-20s team.

But while in­con­ve­nient, Henry was not too per­turbed by the dis­rup­tion. Hav­ing planned well in ad­vance to ar­rive in Bron­cos ter­ri­tory a day ear­lier than nor­mal, the third-sea­son NQ men­tor was con­fi­dent the Cow­boys had more than enough time to put the fin­ish­ing touches on their prepa­ra­tion for the Sun­corp Sta­dium show­down.

‘‘ The boys have got ( to­day) off any­way and then we head to Bris­bane on Wed­nes­day where we’ll hope­fully get in two good ses­sions down there on Wed­nes­day and Thurs­day af­ter­noon,’’ he said. ‘‘ We were able to do a bit of ball work on the hockey sur­face, and we’ve been out there be­fore, so we got a bit done. It wasn’t as much as we’d like to do but I’m happy.’’

The man nick­named ‘‘ King’’ joked that there had been no car­pet burn ca­su­al­ties from the sur­face.

The only North Queens­land play­ers out of con­tention for the team then are long-term in­jury con­cerns cen­tre Brent Tate ( knee) and winger An­to­nio Win­ter­stein ( jaw). Back rower Gavin Cooper is also in the mix af­ter suc­cess­fully re­turn­ing from a pre-sea­son leg in­jury.

Henry said the for­wards was prov­ing the hard­est area of the field to se­lect af­ter ad­mit­ting he was likely to go with Michael Bani and Ash­ley Graham on the wings.

‘‘ We’ve had some good per­for­mances, with young Tariq Sims, ( brother) Ash­ton was good as well so we’ll just have to see what we de­cide ( to­day) with our for­ward pack,’’ Henry said.

Fol­low­ing three con­sec­u­tive open­ing round losses since their 2007 tri­umph, Henry said the Cow­boys were de­ter­mined to get the sea­son off to a win­ning start in 2011.

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