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Cows sweat on JT NRL return, Thompson out

NZN 6/06/2017 Laine Clark

The return of Johnathan Thurston can't come soon enough for North Queensland, with Cowboys coach Paul Green revealing he will need to nurse prized utility Ray Thompson through the rest of the 2017 NRL season.

Rookie pivot Kyle Laybutt is in line to make his debut in Saturday's clash with Parramatta in Darwin. Thompson (knee) has been rested and Thurston (shoulder) is named on an extended bench as he attempts to prove his fitness ahead of State of Origin II.

Thompson has impressed in the halves in the absence of Thurston, but Green won't have that luxury against the Eels after confirming the utility is battling a degenerative knee injury.

Co-captain Thurston has been sidelined since the May 5 trans-Tasman Test in Canberra.

Green said he would know more later this week about Thurston's availability.

"He is still a chance but it is a day-to-day thing. We will see how he goes tomorrow," he said.

But Green still gave Thurston a chance to play June 21's Origin II in Sydney.

"He has played enough Origin to know what to expect and get himself ready," he said.

"As long as his shoulder is 100 per cent fit, I have no doubt he will be able to handle that."

Queensland's game-two team will be named on Monday.

Green said he could have used Thompson against the Eels, but opted to pick the utility for next weekend's clash with Melbourne when the Cowboys will be without their Origin stars.

Off-contract Thompson, after missing the start of the year with the right-knee complaint, is mulling over his future due to the injury.

"His knee is a wear-and-tear injury. He can't continue to play week in, week out," Green said.

"There are only so many games in a row we can get out of him.

"If I had to pick between the two games, I would pick the Storm game. After that, it's about managing his knee."

Green said with stand-in halfback Michael Morgan holding the reins, he had no problem throwing Laybutt into the deep end if Thurston failed to return this weekend.

"At some point, you have to find out about these young guys and this is a good opportunity to do that," he said.

"Without Johnno, Morgo's job is to lead the team around and I think he has done an excellent job of that.

"I don't expect him (Laybutt) to take over from anyone."

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