The Courier-Mail




TOUGH skipper Johnathan Thurston is determined to battle through the pain of a groin injury and lead the Cowboys’ finals charge against the Broncos on Saturday night.

The Maroons champion was yesterday forced to cancel travel plans to Sydney for the NRL’s finals launch, instead rushed for urgent scans by club medicos.

North Queensland expect Thurston to play, but there is a fear he will not be 100 per cent.

In a boost for the Cowboys, five-eighth Michael Morgan will today be named to make his return from an ankle injury.

JOHNATHAN Thurston is set to play through the pain barrier after having scans on a groin injury in a turbulent build-up to Saturday night’s qualifying final against the Broncos.

The Thurston developmen­t came as The Courier-Mail learnt Cowboys halves partner Michael Morgan will today be named to make his return from injury in the Suncorp derby.

Sidelined for the past fortnight with an ankle complaint, Morgan has passed a fitness test and is a certain starter in a huge boost for North Queensland’s title hopes.

Morgan’s comeback eases pressure on the Cowboys, who came under fire yesterday after Thurston and co-captain Matt Scott were controvers­ial noshows for the NRL’s finals launch at the SCG.

Thurston (pictured) was forced to cancel travel plans, instead rushed for urgent scans at the behest of Cowboys medicos. The NRL was furious and complained that this was not the first time the Cowboys had been unable to send their star playmaker to an NRL event.

The Cowboys last night defended Thurston’s absence, concerned a long-haul flight to Sydney could have left him in danger of missing the club’s biggest game of the season.

North Queensland expect Thurston to play, but there is a fear he will not be 100 per cent fit.

The Cowboys can ill-afford to have their most important player under duress considerin­g star trio James Tamou (neck), Scott (neck) and Michael Morgan (ankle) have battled injury in recent weeks.

“Johnathan and Matty Scott are both hurt,’’ said Cowboys football manager Peter Parr. ‘‘ Our preference would be not to have them injured. Jonno strained his groin on the weekend against the Titans and we have sent him off to have scans.

“Johnathan was happy to go there (the NRL finals launch) but he’s injured and we need to get him right for our biggest game of the season so far.

“The doctors’ advice was that it could impede his recovery. We’re confident JT will play, but we’ll get the results of the scans back first and see how he pulls up.”

NRL bosses were angered by the absence of Thurston and Melbourne skipper Cameron Smith for the annual captains’ call finals launch.

Both clubs supplied doctor’s certificat­es to explain why their marquee stars could not attend.

Backrower Gavin Cooper travelled to Sydney as Thurston and Scott’s replacemen­t, and was confident the duo would be on deck for Saturday’s game.

One certainty is Morgan, who will face the Broncos club he tormented with a three-try haul in their finals clash in 2012.

“I saw Morgs run the other day, to the untrained eye he looked OK,” Cooper said. “Everyone knows what Morgo brings to our team and it would be great to have him. He is a crucial part of our side.’’

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