Toyota Cowboys coach Paul Green says Ray Thompson’s month out of football is what has kept him from regaining his starting halves position for this week’s Friday Night Football clash with Cronulla at Remondis Stadium.

Thompson has not played since injuring his hamstring against Newcastle at Hunter Stadium in round 15, missing the games against South Sydney and St George Illawarra leading up to last week’s bye.

He has been named to return on the interchange bench to face the Sharks, with Robert Lui to continue as Johnathan Thurston’s halves partner.

After being at hooker for the opening seven rounds, the PNG international had regained the No.7 jersey in round eight against Parramatta.

“If we’d have had a game last week, Ray would have played in that,” Green said today.

“He’s had an extended break. If it was only a week or two then you’d tend to look more at putting him straight back into the (starting) team.

“Given that it’s a bit longer than that, we just want to ease him back in.”

Green said Sam Hoare’s strong effort off the bench in his debut game against St George Illawarra in round 17 had earned him another chance in the top grade, with NQ down on big men with co-captain Matthew Scott still sidelined by his cheekbone fracture.

The NYC graduate picked up 60 metres in seven hit-ups to go with 12 tackles (no misses) in his 28 minutes of playing time in the three-point loss to the Dragons.

“I thought Sam played really well in the time he was on the field,” Green said.

“He didn’t let us down and did his job.

“In terms of match fitness, he’s probably a better option for us than a couple of others as well.”