COWBOYS coach Paul Green is adamant they won't rush Johnathan Thurston's return from injury just so the superstar halfback can play for Australia in next weekend's Anzac Test.
Thurston has been out of action for the past fortnight with a calf strain but he is a chance to return against the Eels in Townsville on Friday night after being named in the extended 21-man squad.
North Queensland has sorely missed Thurston's direction in attack while the man himself also has the added incentive of playing for the Kangaroos in next Friday's clash with New Zealand in Canberra if he's passed fit.
Thurston is back running but he's yet to train with the team since his injury and coach Paul Green said the Cowboys co-captain must prove his fitness in Thursday's final training session to face Parramatta.
The Cowboys have already learnt a lesson with fullback Lachlan Coote coming back early from a calf injury in round five only to have it flare up again and he hasn't played a game since.
Green said Thurston was doing everything he could to get back on the field but he stressed the Cowboys wouldn't be taking any unnecessary risks with their champion playmaker.
"He might be right but we're not going to take any unnecessary risks with him. He needs to convince us he's fully fit before we'll consider him," Green said.
"JT's a determined bloke so it's not about how determined he is, it's about how fit he is. That's the only thing to consider.
"We're not going to rush him back just so he can play a Test match. We've got a lot of games yet to play this season for us.
"The physio and the doctor (for Australia) are both on our staff so we've got a good connection there, but we've said all along that if he wasn't fit to play for us this week then he probably wouldn't be playing in that Test match.
"He's done some rehab stuff, but he hasn't trained with the team yet. We've only got one more session so we'll see how he goes. Obviously he's got to train and get through that."
Kalyn Ponga was also absent from training on Tuesday after rolling his ankle last weekend, but Green expected the young fullback to take his place against the Eels.
"He just had a bit of a rolled ankle out of the game on the weekend, but it's a shorter turnaround for us so he did a bit of rehab," he said.
"He didn't train with the team ... but we expect him to be fit."
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