Thurston backs up from Origin on Saturday night. Image courtesy of abc.net.au, Photo: Getty Images/Mark Nolan
North Queensland Cowboys v Melbourne Storm
Saturday May 31 – 7:35 PM (AEST)
It’s time to count the casualties form Origin. The North Queensland Cowboys came through unscathed, with Johnathan Thurston, Matt Scott, Brent Tate and James Tamou backing up on Saturday. For the Melbourne Storm it’s not great news. Cooper Cronk has broken arm and will miss 8 weeks and Billy Slater has a shoulder problem which will sideline him for 2-3 weeks. Cameron Smith is also in doubt after suffering ankle ligament damage, but has until just before kick-off to prove his fitness.
On the medical front alone, the Cowboys are in the driver’s seat. A poor performance last week against the Raiders shows how much they rely on their Origin stars. They had no direction, which is provided by Thurston; no grunt and mongrel, which Scott and Tamou bring, and little leadership, which Tate helps deliver. Scott Bolton starts at lock for the suspended Tariq Sims, Robert Lui drops to the bench and Jason Taumalolo starts in the second row for Glenn Hall, who has an interchange role.
Craig Bellamy is cursing Origin right now. Cronk's sidelined for two months, Slater at least a fortnight and the skipper's battling. Bellamy is likely to be minus his “Big 3” this game. Compounding Bellamy's headaches, young half Ben Hampton is suspended and Ben Roberts has already been called up for the injured Joel Romelo. No "Big 3" is a big dilemma for the 'purple army' and Melbourne's depth is being tested by a growing casualty list and suspension.
The way these two teams were going before Origin would have made for an epic clash. But luck is not on the Storm's side and the Cowboys should come away with this.
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