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JT decision not up to Cowboys, says Meninga

Johnathan Thurston playing for the Kangaroos last year.
Johnathan Thurston playing for the Kangaroos last year. Paul Kane

THE Cowboys and Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga could be headed for a potential standoff over Johnathan Thurston's availability for next week's Test against New Zealand if he's ruled out of Friday night's home clash with Parramatta.

Whether Thurston returns from two weeks out with a calf injury will be determined on match day, but North Queensland coach Paul Green doesn't want to take any risks with his biggest asset.

Thurston got through most of Thursday morning's captain's run but is no certainty to line up against the Eels.

Asked if the champion halfback would have his blessing to play in next Friday's Test if he doesn't play the Eels and is passed fit, Green said: "We'll talk about that after but probably not, but we'll wait and see what happens.

"I'm sure he (Meninga) does want him to play, everyone wants him to play, but that will be a decision we'll talk about if he doesn't play on the weekend."

The Cowboys and Kangaroos boast some of the same medical staff, adding more intrigue to the situation.

Meninga has made it clear Thurston will be available to be picked for Australia if he doesn't play Parramatta, but proves his fitness for the clash in Canberra.

"Thurston doesn't have to play that game on the weekend, he's an experienced player," Meninga said.

He went further in his column in The Courier Mail yesterday.

"I read yesterday that Cowboys coach Paul Green said if JT does not play this weekend, the club will not clear Thurston to play for the Kangaroos," he wrote.

"This is not the Cowboys' call to make.

"Johnathan has been picked for Australia, and the Australian Rugby League's medical staff will decide whether JT is fit to play."

Green said they would wait to see how the injury pulls up before making a call.

"He got through most of the session, so we'll see how he pulls up tomorrow and make a decision then," Green said on Thursday.

"Given what we've been through with Cootey (Lachlan Coote returning early from a calf problem but getting re-injured) we don't want to make the same mistake twice.

"Sometimes these injuries can feel okay once you get through a session, but pull up sore or swell up overnight.

"Unless it was a final or a big game we'd probably consider taking a risk, but they're always calculated risks and at this stage of the season there's no need to risk him being out for longer than what he already has."

Green said Kalyn Ponga would line up at fullback after overcoming a rolled ankle sustained in last week's win over Newcastle.

Green added he "isn't a fan" of players being selected for a Test when they have a club match to play beforehand.

"I don't particularly like it, I understand why they might do because it takes a bit of organising as it's a Friday night game also," he said.

"But I'm not a fan of it given we've got a game to get through, and you want your blokes focused on what the job at hand is."

Topics:  johnathan thurston kangaroos mal meninga north queensland cowboys

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