No Thurston, no chance com­ments rub­bished by as­sis­tant coach Payten Bring it on, says Todd

Townsville Bulletin - - SPORT - JON TUX­WORTH jonathon. tux­worth@ news. com. au TRAVIS MEYN

COW­BOYS as­sis­tant coach Todd Payten has a mes­sage for the knock­ers who have writ­ten them off with­out Johnathan Thurston – “bring it on”.

The Cow­boys have won three straight games with­out Thurston de­fy­ing crit­ics who had run a line through their pre­mier­ship hopes once the cham­pion half­back was ruled out for the sea­son with a shoul­der in­jury.

The lat­est was an in­dus­tri­ous 23- 10 win over strug­gling Souths in Cairns on Sun­day.

De­spite also miss­ing Matt Scott, the Cow­boys are now only out­side the top four on for against hav­ing won six of their last eight games.

They have a great chance to con­tinue the roll when they host a Warriors side miss­ing play­maker Shaun John­son on Satur­day.

“I hope they keep say­ing it ( we can’t win with­out Thurston), I’m happy to fly un­der the radar,” Payten said.

“I don’t think any­one re­ally gives us a se­ri­ous chance to win the comp with­out our two cap­tains, but the be­lief within the group is we’re firmly fo­cused on top four and we’re build­ing to­wards that.

“It is ( mo­ti­va­tion) but on the back of that our de­fence has tight­ened up, def­i­nitely since the first bye.

“In the last eight- week pe­riod I think our de­fence is num­ber one for points against. That was a real fo­cus af­ter that first bye.

“We had a break­down of our sta­tis­tics and where we’re at in terms of the com­pe­ti­tion, the play­ers bought into it and they’re reap­ing the re­wards of it now.”

The Cow­boys are likely to JA­SON Tau­malolo has chal­lenged Te Maire Martin to prove he should be Johnathan Thurston’s suc­ces­sor in North Queens­land as the Cow­boys five- eighth con­fronts his slid­ing doors mo­ment.

Martin has been im­pres­sive in his two matches for the Cow­boys since join­ing the club from Pen­rith in a mid­sea­son switch.

The 21- year- old has not looked out of place in the No. 6 jer­sey along­side a dom­i­nant Michael Mor­gan and most im­por­tantly has re­frained from over­play­ing his hand in a new team.

Af­ter re­al­is­ing he had no fu­ture at Pen­rith, Martin was deep in be with­out winger An­to­nio Win­ter­stein against the Warriors af­ter he left the field in­jured against the Rab­bitohs.

Start­ing props Scott Bolton ( chest/ ster­num) and John Asi­ata ( knee) shook off mi­nor is­sues to play on, and are ex­pected to play.

“Our big­gest con­cern is An­to­nio, he came off with a calf slash achilles com­plaint,” Payten said.

“He’ll get a scan and our ini­tial thoughts are it’s pretty mi­nor, but I don’t think he’ll play this week.

“Whether he needs some kind of as­sis­tance to get on the field, he’s as tough as old leath- er, Bolts, so play.”

Javid Bowen looms as the most likely op­tion to re­place Win­ter­stein on the left wing.

Payten said Queens­land Ori­gin stars Michael Mor­gan and Gavin Cooper will be given some time off this week to re­cu­per­ate af­ter a bruis­ing se­ries.

“I thought Morgo ( Mor­gan) and Coops ( Cooper) looked pretty tired in Satur­day’s train­ing ses­sion, they’ll get a cou­ple of days off this week to re­cover and go again,” he said. “If we play it smart and give them the rest they need, we can make a charge to­ward the fi­nals.” I ex­pect him to

AT­TACK­ING INSTINCT: Cow­boys half Te Maire Martin takes on the line dur­ing the Cow­boys’ win over the South Syd­ney Rab­bitohs in Cairns last Sun­day.

As­sis­tant coach Todd Payten.

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