Johnathan Thurston
Johnathan Thurston Getty Images Sport - Warren Little

Top guns line up

THE North Queensland Cowboys players will be out to impress when they play in Mackay on Saturday.

Coach Neil Henry yesterday named an almost full-strength side for the trial against the Gold Coast Titans at Virgin Australia Stadium, including superstars Johnathan Thurston and Matt Bowen.

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Henry said there were still a lot of positions up for grabs ahead of the official season.

Antonio Winterstein and Kane Linnett will be battling to lock in a centre spot, with the two sharing time in that role last week.

Another Cowboy looking to produce a big performance is Ray Thompson, who will partner Thurston in the halves, with Michael Morgan on the bench.

His main competitor for the spot is injured recruit Robert Lui, who may have to roll the dice in a trial game next week for feeder club Northern Pride in a last-ditch bid to be picked at halfback for the opening NRL game.

Coach Neil Henry admitted Thompson was favourite following two very good trial displays but conceded Lui could get a chance to make a late push if he played for the Pride.

"But Ray Thompson was good last week, he was very good the week before and he's in good form," he said.

"At the moment he's in the box seat with JT (Thurston)."

Henry talked about Thurston playing five-eighth until it was pointed out he'd named him at halfback for Saturday's match.

"Is he named at seven or has he got six on him?" inquired Henry with a grin.

"Seven? Well I had him down as a six, there you go.

"I guess he'll play six or seven ... he'll be out there, on the left side mainly, but sometimes on the right."

Henry said the Cowboys had missed Thurston's influence in their win against the Dragons in Perth.

"He adds a fair bit of flair to our attack but also leadership on the field," he said.

"His leadership was missed last week, as was Matty (Bowen's)."

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