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Cowboys wait on Thurston NRL fitness call

NZN 9/06/2017 Matt Coughlan, Lucy Hughes Jones and Scott Bailey

North Queensland will wait until game day to decide if champion playmaker Johnathan Thurston is fit to face Parramatta in their Darwin NRL clash.

Thurston trained with teammates on Friday in the Cowboys' final session, but medical staff will wait to assess how his shoulder pulls up ahead of Saturday night's match at TIO Stadium.

The 34-year-old suffered the injury a month ago in Australia's Test win over New Zealand.

He hasn't played for the Cowboys for more than two months, with a calf issue hampering him before the Anzac Test.

If Thurston is ruled out, rookie five-eighth Kyle Laybutt is waiting to make his debut.

Eels coach Brad Arthur is preparing his side to face the Queensland superstar, with the match his last chance to play at club level before Queensland's must-win State of Origin clash on June 21.

"He's a quality player - he's one of the best in the world," Arthur said.

"If he plays, it's a big lift for them and he's a really important 'in' for them."

Arthur is confident playmaker Corey Norman will return from injury to partner high-profile recruit Mitchell Moses in the halves for the first time.

Norman hasn't played since injuring his knee in the round-10 loss to the Sydney Roosters, but has trained strongly this week.

Arthur said the new combination would take time to gel, but backed them to carry them in the meantime.

"They're going into a game with only two sessions together so they're going to be a little bit disjointed at times," Arthur said on Friday.

"But they'll play with plenty of energy and, at some stage, I'm sure they'll link together and look like they've been together for a while."

The fresh combination is likely to push in-form Clint Gutherson into the centres as the Eels seek a third-straight victory.

Parramatta are also looking to keep their perfect record in Darwin intact with a fourth win.

"The last couple of times, we've been on the back of a couple of losses in a row so we've been pretty desperate," Arthur said.

"This time, we come in different circumstances on the back of a couple of wins and a bit of confidence - and the return of Normie."

STATS THAT MATTER:

* The Cowboys are receiving the most penalties (7.6 per game), as well as forcing the equal second most dropouts (2.1 per game)

* Parramatta are conceding 15 tries on their right side - the second worst in the NRL.

* North Queensland have scored 13 of 39 tries from kicks, the equal second highest in the NRL.

Source: Fox Sports Stats

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