nib Newcastle Knights coach Nathan Brown maintains the absence of Johnathan Thurston doesn’t mean the North Queensland Cowboys won’t be a challenge in Townsville this Saturday.
“I think anyone would agree what influence JT has on any team, it doesn’t matter whether it is Australia, Queensland or the Cowboys,” said Brown.
“Last week the Cowboys showed in the second half without Johnathan, they can find their game.”
Given the Cowboys haven’t named Thurston in their squad, the coach isn’t expecting him to a late inclusion.
“Under the rules of the game today, if you don’t name players, you can’t play them anyway,” explained Brown.
“I would be surprised if he did appear but if he did, we’d have to try and do our best.
“He obviously has a great impact on the team but I thought the second half the other day was very good from the Cowboys.”
The Knights coach admits the one to look out for will be the North Queensland fullback, Kalyn Ponga, who will be joining the Knights next season.
“Hopefully he has a quiet day,” laughed Brown.
“The second half last week was quite outstanding, he contributed a lot for them.
“Fullback is such an important position and if you don’t get your defence right on that part of the field it’s hard work.
“I don’t think any one fullback is treated any differently because they all have a different baring on the game.”
Also on the radar is Cowboys forward Jason Taumalolo.
“We are pretty sure he is going to have some influence on the game, he’s averaging over 200 metres a week and with Matt Scott gone he has taken on a bit more responsibility,” added Brown.
“The key for us is to limit his impact and that will be a good start.
“Blokes of that quality always have some impact on the game because he’s going to carry the ball that many times that he is surely going to cause a bit of trouble.
“We will have to make sure we work hard on him and that defence around him will cover up anything he creates.”
While the win ratio has been disappointing, the Knights coach admits his side have been fighting and consistently putting themselves in positions to win, although made difficult by a number of setbacks.
“Rory (Kostjasyn) was brought here as an experienced hooker to help younger kids and he has not got on the field at this stage,” said Brown.
“If he does get on the field we don’t know yet and (Dylan) Phythian who we had a lot of hope for, that has certainly hurt us in the tight battles.
“The big thing for Rory is his breathing, everything is fine but the breathing so we’ll know a lot more in the next two to three weeks.
The Knights coach maintains there’s a lot of quality players set to come on the market, but the Club will take the time to get it right.
“Getting the roster right long term is the most important thing for the Knights,” added Brown.
“We haven’t made any short-term decisions and it may impact us but we’ve seen Clubs go down this path before where they try to do a quick fix but most have to take their time.
“We brought in all these young kids last year and we owe it to them to put the right players around them.”
Meanwhile the buzz around where Kieran Foran will play in 2018 continues.
“We had a brief conversation with Kieran and does he want to come up, I don’t know,” added Brown.
“I’m sure he hasn’t ruled out staying in New Zealand at this point, the Warriors are a strong Club and he’s had an opportunity there.
“I am sure he’s got his family situation that he’ll look at, he’ll work through and if coming back to Australia is an option, we’d definitely love him to consider playing for us.
“He is a world class player and he plays in a position that is very important.”
Brown admits they want to be able to attract some high-profile signings.
“We want to attract some high-profile players with a lot of experience to go with our younger players,” Brown said.
“The players we are looking at are very well credentialed.
“At the end of the day most players are staying put, not many are leaving, we’re just looking at a number of players that we are throwing our hat in the ring for if they do decide to leave their current club.”
The Knights fly to Townsville on Thursday to take on the Cowboys at 1300Smiles Stadium on Saturday.