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Cowboys halfback Johnathan Thurston.

The bear has been poked but North Queensland five-eighth Michael Morgan reckons it is the Canterbury Bulldogs who will be most worried about the criticism aimed at Cowboys legend Johnathan Thurston.

The Cowboys' round six clash with the Bulldogs comes hot on the heels of 1991 premiership-winning halfback Greg Alexander's claim on national television that Thurston may have played one season too many.

Thurston has conceded he needs to lift while Morgan said the barb aimed at the veteran half was more likely to have the Bulldogs worried that a classic JT masterclass was on the cards.

''He knows we're not playing the best we can and the sooner we get to that the better, and hopefully he goes out and puts on a clinic this weekend,'' Morgan said.
''[The Bulldogs] might be a bit annoyed by [the criticism] but he's been doing it for 14 years or something and he's been one of the best players for so long so we're not worried about it.''

North Queensland coach Paul Green was not entirely displeased that Thurston's form had been questioned and backed him to respond to the criticism in the best way possible. 

''When good players cop criticism like that they know the best way to respond is on the field and he doesn't forget how to play, he's just got to go out there and answer the critics the best way he knows,'' Green said.

Cowboys five-eighth Michael Morgan.
Cowboys five-eighth Michael Morgan. ©Scott Davis/NRL Photos

''We've got that experience, we've been down some dry gullies before but we know what we need to do to get us back on track and hopefully we can do that.

''All of us need to step up, as a team we need to play better, we've done that in patches, we need to do it more consistently."

With one win apiece this season, both the Cowboys and the Bulldogs could slide to last with a loss in Townsville.

Canterbury's forward pack has failed to fire and as a result Kieran Foran has not had the space to create to his capabilities, while the Cowboys are yet to click for 80 minutes in what has been an all too familiar slow start.

''Both teams have got plenty to play for - what that means in terms of how the game pans out I don't know,'' Green said.

Morgan hopes his combination with Thurston clicks but will be happy just to win.

''I don't mind how we do it as long as we do win,'' he said.

''When you're in a position like we are now you'll take anything you can get and hopefully our wins start on Saturday.''


Acknowledgement of Country

North Queensland Cowboys respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.