An SOS from Indigenous coach Laurie Daley has been issued to Penrith’s Will Smith after North Queensland hooker Ray Thompson broke down at All Stars training on Friday.
In a body blow to the Cowboys ahead of their NRL title defence, Thompson was booked for Friday night surgery after suffering an ankle fracture at the Indigenous side’s final training session ahead of the All Stars clash.
A shellshocked Daley was forced to ring around NRL clubs barely 24 hours before Saturday night’s showcase event at Suncorp Stadium before finally recruiting Smith.
Bulldogs’ Craig Garvey will replace Thompson as starting hooker.
Thompson will not only miss the All Stars clash but also the Cowboys’ World Club Challenge showdown with English champions Leeds in the UK next weekend.
Daley still appeared to be reeling from Thompson’s injury when he was the last to arrive for the pre-match press conference on Friday.
“I just got off the phone…he is at the hospital. It’s a broken ankle – he’s not in a good way,” Daley told reporters.
“It was just a little accident at training (but) he was in a lot of pain.
“It’s a shame for Ray. He was going really well and looking forward to the game and then he was going over to the World Club Challenge.
Thompson’s injury was another blow for the All Stars match which has already been hit hard by player unavailability.
Five players pulled out of the Indigenous side during the week while nine of the original 20-strong World All Stars squad withdrew.
But the Cowboys look set to feel the full impact of Thompson’s injury.
Cowboys coach Paul Green admitted their depth would be tested before flying out for the UK on Friday in preparation for next weekend’s WCC clash with Leeds.
“It’s a huge blow. Ray covers a number of positions for us and he was vying to get a spot on the bench,” he told reporters.
“He was one of our best players. He was in our best 19 last year – it’s disappointing.”