Thompson set to play pivot
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.’’
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.