Final test for season starter
The North Queensland Toyota Cowboys are taking a 20-man squad to Toowoomba for their final pre-season trial against the Gold Coast Titans at Clive Berghofer Oval.
Here are six to watch on Saturday night:
Johnathan Thurston: JT’s back in his old home town of Toowoomba for his only tune-up before round one against Canberra. He’s keen to get 80 minutes behind him to maximise his time working with Paul Green's new structures and to reacquaint himself with halves partner Robert Lui and the chosen fullback. You can usually never tell that the two-time Dally M Medal winner has had a break and he should be a major threat to the Titans defence once again.
Antonio Winterstein: There was no better Cowboy in the NRL Auckland Nines victory than the winger/centre who continually palmed off would-be defenders, stepped around others (including Bronco Josh Hoffman in the final) and was his usual strong self in defence. That sort of form will have opposition outside backs very worried.
Scott Bolton: Coach Paul Green highlighted Bolton as one of the most impressive Cowboys this pre-season in Wednesday night’s Fox Sports NRL preview show. Now accustomed to playing in the core instead of on an edge, he is set to win a spot in the 17 against the Raiders and can make sure of it with a big performance in support of Matt Scott and James Tamou against the Coast.
Michael Morgan: Where will he play? There have been suggestions from outside Cowboys HQ this week that Morgan will be tried at fullback as the Cowboys search for a replacement for the injured Lachlan Coote. The 22-year-old’s strong running game and passing talents make him a distinct possibility. He could also bob up in the halves and at centre this weekend.
Zac Santo: Another player in contention for the No.1 jersey, Santo has done his chances no harm in the past fortnight, playing with distinction in the trial win against Brisbane and NRL Auckland Nines victory. The experience of playing in front of 45,000 loud and passionate opposition fans at Eden Park, and winning, will definitely help his development and boost his confidence that he can make it in the NRL.
Cameron King: The battle for the hooker role is still on in earnest and King is in the middle of it after impressing the Cowboys coaching staff with his performance for the Northern Pride against Mackay Cutters in Townsville last Saturday night. A week earlier, he scored a nippy try out of dummy-half against the Broncos and was generally dangerous with the ball in hand.