The days of North Queensland being a one man band are over, but it seems someone forgot to tell Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy.
Cowboys mentor Paul Green insists the reigning NRL premiers are no longer reliant on injured playmaker Johnathan Thurston ahead of Saturday night’s top three clash with the Storm in Townsville.
“I firmly believe we have moved past that,” Green said.
Bellamy is unconvinced by that argument, but also expects Thurston to play this weekend.
Thurston has been ruled out for two weeks with a hamstring injury but Green has been coy on his availability despite not naming the Test half this week.
“I am not sure if anyone is 100 per cent sure whether he is playing or not,” Bellamy said.
“By all reports Paul Green was a little bit coy on how long or what the injury actually is. We are preparing he might play.”
Asked if North Queensland no longer relied on the four-time Dally M medallist, Bellamy said: “It’s hard to say.
“I can’t remember the last time he was injured.
“He’s not out often enough to know whether they rely on him or not.”
But Bellamy believed North Queensland would be determined to prove him wrong if Thurston doesn’t play.
“He would be a tremendous loss but they have a lot of good players in that team who can take up the slack and will be determined to show they can do it without him,” he said.
Thurston may face a sideline stint but there is no rest in sight for Queensland teammates Cameron Smith and Cooper Cronk ahead of the finals, according to Bellamy.
“You want to be sensible. You don’t want to give them a week off just of the sake of it,” he said of his Queensland State of Origin duo.
“Finding the right match for that and getting their approval is another thing – they want to play.
“I have got one (match) in mind but it depends on how we are at.”
Melbourne will remain in sight of ladder leaders Cronulla if they topple third-placed North Queensland for a second time this season, and will also claim their fifth straight victory.
But the minor premiership is not a priority for Bellamy.
“It would be nice, but the minor premiers don’t really get enough credit to be honest. They get remembered for a week,” he said.
“It’s up to Cronulla. They are in the box seat.”