No rest appears in sight for North Queensland’s State of Origin stars after Kane Linnett became the Cowboys’ latest injury concern following their 30-26 NRL win over Manly.
Kiwi backrower Jason Taumalolo was inspirational, bagging a double as North Queensland survived a major scare from a revitalised Sea Eagles at a humid Townsville on Monday night.
The Cowboys’ Queensland playmaker Johnathan Thurston appeared exhausted hunched over with his hands on his knees at fulltime.
But Cowboys coach Paul Green baulked at the idea of resting his Origin stars Thurston, James Tamou, Matt Scott and Justin O’Neill in the coming weeks.
“Probably not,” he said.
“The way the draw has turned out we’ve had some good turnarounds and some time to give days off for the Origin boys.
“But we will assess how they are going.”
Green may be even more reluctant to sideline his stars after centre Linnett suffered a second half calf injury.
He left the field in the 53rd minute, forcing backrower Gavin Cooper to slot into the centres.
Green hoped the full extent of Linnett’s injury would be known after scans on Tuesday.
North Queensland are already without five-eighth Michael Morgan (knee) for a month.
Rory Kostjasyn was solid at pivot on Monday night.
North Queensland (3rd; 10-5) kept in touch with the top two while all but ending Manly’s finals hopes after relegating them to their seventh straight loss.
Two try hero Taumalolo amassed 143m by halftime and finished with 199m from 16 hit-ups plus five tackle breaks.
“He was outstanding for us especially in the first half,” co-captain Thurston said.
Thurston believed Taumalolo had inspired a Cowboys pack during the Origin period, taking the heat off fatigued rep forwards Scott and Tamou.
“He’s been great for us all year and we’ve been impressed with his second stints when he has come back on the field,” Thurston said.
Manly scored three tries in 11 minutes, turning an 18-4 halftime deficit into a 22-18 lead deep into the second half.
But a late brace including Taumalolo’s second in the 68th minute was enough to get North Queensland over the line for their 10th straight home win stretching back to last year.
Cowboys coach Paul Green admitted it wasn’t convincing but would take any win during the Origin period.
Especially against a “desperate” Sea Eagles that had welcomed back Daly Cherry-Evans and captain Jamie Lyon from injury.
“Their season was on the line,” Green said.
“We showed a bit of ticker to come back.”