JT Ready To Rise For Alex

Johnathan Thurston - North QLD Cowboys
Thurston is the man who can get the Cowboys back on track. Image courtesy of: Picture: Sam Ruttyn

Cronulla Sharks NRL Logo

Sharks v Cowboys

Remondis Stadium

Friday July 18 – 7:45 PM (AEST)




North Queensland Cowboys Logo


It’s a round that means so much to the rugby league community. In Round 3 this year, Newcastle Knights back rower Alex McKinnon suffered a severe neck injury, which was thought to have made him a paraplegic. But determination and persistence have given the young forward hope, with his prognosis getting better every day. This weekend is 'Rise For Alex' round, when every NRL team plays in support of Alex. $1 from every fan who attends any of the eight games this weekend will go to Alex and his family, in the hope of getting him back on his feet; both metaphorically and literally. The North Queensland Cowboys and the Cronulla Sharks will use this round as inspiration to get their seasons back on track. For the Cowboys, it’s a spot in the finals. For the Sharks, it’s to avoid the wooden spoon.

It is time for the Cowboys to either put up or go home. They are running out of chances to make it back into the eight, and Friday might be their last opportunity. Johnathan Thurston is the man everyone will be looking at. If he performs well, the Cowboys perform well. But he can’t do it on his own. Every game, he gives it everything, but if his forwards aren’t setting the platform, and the backs aren’t hitting those lines, then it is all for nothing. This week, JT will wear the No.16 jersey in honour of the 'Rise For Alex' round. Both Thurston and James Tamou return from Origin duty, alongside hooker Rory Kostjasyn and utility Ray Thompson. Michael Morgan moves to fullback, with Matthew Wright jumping back on the wing in place of Curtis Rona. Ethan Lowe has been suspended, while Anthony Mitchell, Zac Santo and Ben Spina drop out of the side.

The Sharks season is effectively over. There is no coming back. Sitting on 12 competition points, if (a very big if) they win all their remaining games, they will be at the bottom of a very congested Top 8. But given they have Panthers, Warriors and Storm in their final eight rounds, it is next to impossible. The injury to captain Paul Gallen is the last nail in the coffin for the Sharks' season. Anthony Tupou comes off the bench to cover for Gallen at lock, with Andrew Fifita returning from injury in the front row. Tim Robinson and Tupou Sopoaga have both been added to an extended bench.

This is the Cowboys' season on the line. Lose this and they can pretty much book their end of year trip. The only thing the Sharks have to play for is the chance to avoid the wooden spoon. But for any team, the chance to avoid that piece of cutlery is more than enough motivation.

Channel 9

Toby's Tip: Michael Morgan First Try-Scorer

Toby Burke - Twitter

View Full AFL Markets