Cowboys thriving without Thurston
COWBOYS assistant coach Todd Payten has a message for the knockers who have written them off without Johnathan Thurston - "bring it on."
The Cowboys have won three straight games without the Thurston defying critics who had run a line through their premiership hopes once the champion halfback was ruled out for the season with a shoulder injury.
The latest was an industrious 23-10 win over struggling Souths in Cairns on Sunday. Despite also missing Matt Scott, the Cowboys are now only outside the top four on for against having won six of their last eight games.
They have a great chance to continue the roll when they host a Warriors side missing playmaker Shaun Johnson on Saturday.
"I hope they keep saying it (we can't win without Thurston, I'm happy to fly under the radar," Payten said.
"I don't think anyone really gives us a serious chance to win the comp without our two captains, but the belief within the group is we're firmly focused on top four and we're building towards that.
"It is (motivation) but on the back of that our defence has tightened up, definitely since the first bye.
"In the last eight week period I think our defence is number one for points against. That was a real focus after that first bye.
"We had a breakdown of our statistics and where we're at in terms of the competition, the players bought into it and they're reaping the rewards of it now."
The Cowboys are likely to be without winger Antonio Winterstein against the Warriors after he left the field injured against the Rabbitohs.
Starting props Scott Bolton (chest/sternum) and John Asiata (knee) shook off minor issues to play on, and are expected to play.
"Our biggest concern is Antonio, he came off with a calf slash achilles complaint," Payten said.
"He'll get a scan and our initial thoughts are it's pretty minor, but I don't think he'll play this week.
"Whether he needs some kind of assistance to get on the field, he's as tough as old leather, Bolts, so I expect him to play."
Javid Bowen looms as the most likely option to replace Winterstein on the left wing.
Payten said Queensland Origin stars Michael Morgan and Gavin Cooper will be given some time off this week to recuperate after a bruising series.
"I thought Morgo (Nichael Morgan) and Coops (Gavin Cooper) looked pretty tired in Saturday's training session, they'll get a couple of days off this week to recover and go again," he said.
If we play it smart and give them the rest they need, we can make a charge toward the finals."