Johnathan Thurston and Michael Morgan.
Johnathan Thurston and Michael Morgan. Bradley Kanaris

Crushing blow for Cowboys in Thurston's 300th

THE Cowboys will open their season without another key playmaker, with Michael Morgan set to miss his halves partner Johnathan Thurston's 300th NRL game with a stomach injury.

Morgan's omission is a big blow for a side that was already without fullback Lachlan Coote as well as centre Kane Linnett for Saturday night's showdown with the Sharks.

With Ben Hampton already selected in the No.1 jersey, Morgan's injury, which is reportedly an abdominal strain, will force coach Paul Green to start Te Maire Martin at five-eighth.

Historically abdominal strains are cause for two to four-week recovery periods, although some players miss up to six weeks with the injury.

It's been an interrupted preparation for North Queensland, and the Morgan injury puts added pressure on Thurston to deliver the goods in his milestone game at 1300SMILES Stadium in Townsville.

Michael Morgan takes the line on in Johnathan Thurston's testimonial match.
Michael Morgan takes the line on in Johnathan Thurston's testimonial match. DARREN ENGLAND

The Cowboys' opponents haven't been without their own disruptions, with veteran back-rower Luke Lewis also ruled out with a foot injury.

Morgan's injury comes at a time when the Cowboys are preparing for life after Thurston, with the all-time great revealing he was ready to take a back seat this year, so last year's Dally M Halfback of the Year could continue to develop into a top-class playmaker.

"Off the field we have seen how much he has grown over the past year and part of his development is to make sure he doesn't take a back seat to me,” Thurston said earlier this week.

"We have come up with a few new structures to try and get the best out of the playing group. If guys see an opportunity, make sure they get the ball in their hands.

"I've spoken about it with 'Morgo', it's very important for his development that he doesn't (defer to Thurston in attack).

Michael Morgan guided the Cowboys to the 2017 grand final.
Michael Morgan guided the Cowboys to the 2017 grand final. DAN HIMBRECHTS

"While we have seen how good Morgo was and how we have worked together for the Cowboys, I want to get the best out of him this year.

"That's what Morgo needs to do this year and there were examples the other week (in the Thurston-Cameron Smith testimonial game).

"Morgo is the future of our club.”

Morgan joined an elite club a week ago when he signed a five-year deal to extend his stay at the Cowboys on a contract worth $1 million a season.

The 26-year-old climbed to new heights after assuming the primary playmaker role last year following a season-ending shoulder injury Thurston suffered in Origin II.

Playing in the No.7 jersey, Morgan steered the Cowboys to an unlikely grand final appearance as well as starting an Origin game for the first time in Queensland's deciding victory and claiming the Kangaroos' No.6 jersey for the World Cup.

Despite plenty of suitors across the NRL, Morgan said he did not talk to any other clubs before re-signing with the Cowboys.

"It wasn't a lot of clubs I was saying yes or no or being interested in, it was (about) working out a deal with the Cowboys,” Morgan said.

"As long as I was happy with what the offer was and how long it was, I was always going to stay.”


High scoring Panthers claim another win

High scoring Panthers claim another win

The Panthers women's side is on track to repeat their 2017 season.

Nanango pioneers new CCTV technology

Nanango pioneers new CCTV technology

Lots of eyes on Nanango.

Kingaroy pride on show at state cup

Kingaroy pride on show at state cup

The Kingaroy Koalas have worn their uniforms with pride.

Local Partners