NRL Ladder 2016 Cowboys’ Thurston replaced; to miss games with injury
Australia's Johnathan Thurston (L) kicks past New Zealand's Ruben Wiki during the opening match of the Tri Nations rugby league tournament in Auckland, New Zealand October 14, 2006. Reuters/Nigel Marple

The North Queensland Cowboys’ star Johnathan Thurston will miss two games due to a hamstring injury he sustained in the second half of the Cowboys’ win over the Canterbury Bulldogs on July 21. With Thurston sidelined, the Cowboys have several options for his replacement.

Foxsports reports that the Cowboys opted to rest its star as the team doesn't want to risk further injury to Thurston. The Cowboys would want their chief playmaker healthy as they build towards a premiership defence in September.

Though the injury is not serious, Thurston is expected to miss two games, starting with Saturday’s clash with the Melbourne Storm. He is also expected to miss the following Sunday’s game against the Wests Tigers.

While Thurston’s playmaking ability and leadership will be missed, his absence provides an opportunity for some of the Cowboys lesser players to take the spotlight.

According to the Townsville Bulletin, the Cowboys’ bench utility Rory Kostjasyn, reliable veteran Ray Thompson and Townsville Blackhawks standout Jahrome Hughes are all options to temporarily replace Thurston. All three players have already played halves for the Cowboys this season.

But it is the 29-year-old Kostjasyn who is likely to be the frontrunner for the vacancy. The Sydney product had already played several roles for the Cowboys this season while playing in all 17 games. His leadership, organizational skills and strong defence also makes him a good foil for Thurston’s right-hand man Michael Morgan.

If Kostjasyn is named to the halves, fullback Lachlan Coote will be taking on more playmaking and kicking duties to help fill the gap Thurston left.

Thompson, who showed flashes of brilliance this year, is another option for Cowboys Coach Paul Green. He has a superb running game and a history with Morgan that dates back in their early careers, which makes them familiar with each other as a halves combination.

Aside from Kostjasyn and Thompson, Green can also opt to use Hughes, who only had one start with the Cowboys. Hughes looked like a first grade player in his debut, though, before injury robbed him of more opportunities. But he is pretty much looking for more opportunities to show what he can do out there.