Farewell season: ‘We’re not doing it for JT’
THE Johnathan Thurston Farewell Tour will officially kick off in Cairns this Saturday night but Cowboys coach Paul Green says the champion half's final season in the NRL won't provide any extra motivation for his highly-fancied squad.
Thurston hasn't played since requiring shoulder surgery in the wake of Game Two of last year's Origin series but has been named in a 22-man squad to play the Wests Tigers at Barlow Park in Cairns this weekend.
Fellow co-captain Matt Scott will play his first game since suffering an ACL injury in Round 2 last season with the pair expected to be given around 30 minutes of game-time ahead of the testimonial game for Thurston and Cameron Smith at Suncorp Stadium on Friday, February 23.
A slight hamstring strain will prevent Lachlan Coote from taking part in the first trial of the season, World Cup stars Jason Taumalolo, Michael Morgan and Jordan McLean will all be spared and the thriving crop of young outside backs will be given their first chance to impress for 2018 ahead of the NRL incumbents.
Given that it is in all likelihood Thurston's final season in the NRL fanfare will accompany his every move in 2018 but Green told foxsports.com.au that it can't be his team's only motivation.
Still stinging from their grand final defeat at the hands of the Storm despite the adversity they had to overcome just to get there, Green was adamant that there is unfinished business that will remain just that if they lose focus of what's required to justify any pre-season favouritism.
"I know it's a cliche but this year is never going to be about JT," Green said.
"At some point he's going to be playing his last year but he's the first to talk about team-first and that's something that will be consistent for us throughout the year.
"Whether or not blokes find extra motivation because of the player he is and the guy he's been here at the club, time will tell.
"We're not going to do it for JT.
"It would be a nice way to send him out, no doubt, but you've got to concentrate on what matters and that's preparing for games and making sure you're doing all the right things."
Green is yet to formally address the Cowboys' loss to the Storm in last year's decider but plans to discuss why they were unable to play their best football on the greatest stage before the 2018 season commences.
Conceding that his side had a few things go against them against a red-hot Melbourne team, Green will focus his review on why they didn't play to their potential rather than the result itself.
"We'll definitely talk about it as a group," said Green.
"We've touched on it but we haven't gone into detail yet.
"I don't know how much detail we'll go into, we'll see how that goes, but there's a sense that we're not satisfied with what happened.
"It's not a matter of cutting slack and it's not a matter of winning or losing, it's more about playing to your potential.
"Against a team as good as Melbourne you don't necessarily need luck to go for you but you don't need anything to go against you.
"Things like losing 'Fenno' (Shaun Fensom), that hurt us. It put a lot of pressure on other guys that had to play a bit longer than they had and he had a terrific workrate for us too. That hurt us losing him so early.
"The three games before we were building up to that, we just weren't at our best on the night."