The drought is nearly over and North Queensland Cowboys supporters will breathe a huge sigh of relief when Johnathan Thurston and Matt Scott make their long-awaited return from injury next week.
When he takes the field in next Saturday’s trial with the Wests Tigers in Cairns, it will be 240 days since Thurston, fully recovered from a shoulder injury, last played on June 21 when he inspired Queensland’s comeback victory in Origin II.
Scott will have endured 344 days on the sidelines since injuring his ACL in the round-two clash with the Brisbane Broncos, but is now ready to rock.
“Johnno and Thumper haven’t played much footy in the last little while,” coach Paul Green said.
“They both wanted to get a bit of a hit-out under their belt before that trial against Melbourne and blow the cobwebs out.”
While Green doesn’t expect Thurston or Scott to play more than one half of football, he’s confident their inclusion will have a positive impact on the side.
“Just having them around training has been really good, it’s really helped the young guys, but it’s also added that level of experience,” Green said.
The squad is otherwise composed of a diverse range of young and experienced players, with the backline getting an overhaul since last year’s grand final.
Ben Hampton at fullback is one notable inclusion, while Gideon Gela-Mosby and Enari Tuala will line up on the wings and Javid Bowen and Shaun Hudson in the centres.
Lachlan Coote is recovering from injury, opening the door for Hampton to play in the custodian position where he scored two tries on debut for the Melbourne Storm in 2013.
“I don’t think [Coote] will be right for this trial, he just had a bit of a hamstring complaint but it’s nothing too serious, but I probably wouldn’t have played him anyway given his experience,” Green said.
“Ben played a fair bit of fullback as a kid, so it’s a role he’s not unaccustomed to.”
The Cowboys will complete their pre-season campaign when they take on the Melbourne Storm in Brisbane on February 23 for the Cameron Smith and Johnathan Thurston testimonial match at Suncorp Stadium.
Cowboys squad to face Wests Tigers on February 17: Ben Hampton, Gideon Gela-Mosby, Javid Bowen, Shaun Hudson, Enari Tuala, Te Maire Martin, Johnathan Thurston, Scott Bolton, Jake Granville, Matt Scott, Ethan Lowe, Coen Hess, John Asiata, Kyle Laybutt, Jake Clifford, Mitch Dunn, Shane Wright, Corey Jensen, Sam Hoare, Emry Pere, Francis Molo, Carlin Anderson