North Queensland coach Paul Green will hold last minute fullback auditions when a strong Cowboys squad tackles the Titans in Toowoomba on Saturday night.
Auditions for the North Queensland No.1 jersey will start again this weekend.
And understudies received a sobering reminder of just what the demanding role required from Cowboys co-captain Johnathan Thurston on Wednesday.
New signing Matthew Wright, Zac Santo and Javid Bowen are expected to soak up the spotlight sharing fullback duties in North Queensland’s final NRL trial against Gold Coast Titans in Toowoomba on Saturday night.
Cowboys coach Paul Green has granted them centre stage after the man he had hoped would step up in the absence of North Queensland superstar Matt Bowen – Lachlan Coote – suffered a season-ending knee injury at the Auckland Nines.
Asked what he wanted from a fullback on Wednesday, Thurston smiled: “Someone like Mango (Bowen) would be nice. Not too much pressure?
“But definitely he needs to be on the ball, bring kick returns back with a bit of venom.
“It’s extremely disappointing for Lachlan and the club that he got injured.
“But it’s done now.
“We have to come up with another gameplan.
“And I am sure whoever plays will get the job done and work hard to make the position theirs.”
Thurston believed Coote would still have an impact on the Cowboys this season.
“I am sure he will remain a big part of the squad,” he said.
“He had been training very well. He had fit in really well with the boys.
“The fullback position is now up for grabs.
“Whoever steps in there he (Coote) can give them some tips and hints on field position and things like that.”
Coote underwent knee reconstruction surgery on Wednesday.
Green named a strong 20-man squad including Thurston, fellow captain Matt Scott and their World Cup winning teammate Brent Tate in the trio’s only pre-season hit-out before the NRL kick-off against Canberra on March 8.
Thurston still seemed to be buzzing from their Nines triumph despite a casualty list that included Coote, Curtis Rona and Rory Kostjasyn – the latter pair picking up “minor injuries” according to a Cowboys spokesman.
Twelve members of the successful Auckland squad will run out this weekend but Nines skipper Gavin Cooper will be rested.
“I was running around the loungeroom like a lunatic cheering the boys on (watching the Nines) – it was an exciting day for the club,” Thurston said.
Cowboys squad: Scott Bolton, Javid Bowen, Kyle Feldt, Glenn Hall, Cameron King, Kane Linnett, Robert Lui, Michael Morgan, Joel Riethmuller, Zac Santo, Matt Scott (capt), Ashton Sims, Tariq Sims, James Tamou, Brent Tate, Jason Taumalolo, Ray Thompson, Johnathan Thurston (capt), Antonio Winterstein, Matthew Wright.