Johnathan Thurston looks on during a Queensland State of Origin team training session at Sanctuary Cove on the Gold Coast.
Johnathan Thurston looks on during a Queensland State of Origin team training session at Sanctuary Cove on the Gold Coast. DAVE HUNT

Coach unsure whether JT will be back

COWBOYS coach Paul Green has challenged his playmakers to learn the lessons of stepping up without Johnathan Thurston and continue to be assertive when their marquee man returns.

Although Thurston was ruled out of tonight's State of Origin clash in Brisbane with a shoulder injury, the halfback was named on an extended bench for Saturday's home clash with Gold Coast.

It is highly unlikely the 34-year-old will play given the match is just three days after Origin, and Thurston has publicly stated he's aiming to return against Parramatta in Darwin next week.

But Green didn't rule out the chance of his co-captain (pictured) lining up against the Titans.

"I'm not sure (of his chances) to be honest until he comes back with the team (from Queensland camp). We'll check him out once he gets back with us," Green said.

The Cowboys have won two of five games since Thurston injured his hamstring against the Wests Tigers in round six, and his return was delayed after hurting his rotator cuff in the midyear Test against New Zealand.

A loss against the Titans could put the unchanged Cowboys (6-5) out of the top eight, and they will be desperate to arrest a home record that has yielded just three wins in six matches.

They led 14-0 at Cronulla before last week's bye, but some poor last-tackle options allowed the defending premiers to score 18 unanswered second-half points.

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