JT: No time for Morgo to be timid
JOHNATHAN Thurston has urged Michael Morgan to grow a voice and not be afraid to overrule the champion Cowboys halfback.
North Queensland's NRL premiership hopes are teetering following a poor start to the season which has yielded one win in five matches.
The season may only be five rounds old, but the NRL premiership has proved impossible to win from outside the top four and the Cowboys have a lot of work to do to climb up the ladder before September arrives.
The 14th-placed Cowboys have a golden opportunity to kickstart their season against the 15th-placed Bulldogs at 1300SMILES Stadium on Saturday.
Morgan, North Queensland's hero in last year's run to the grand final, has partially eased back into his shell this season with Thurston back at the helm.
The Cowboys five-eighth attempted to smooth out their battling combination last week and Thurston, a four-time Dally M medallist, said he was ready to share the reins with his playmaking partner.
"We are still working hard on our combination and trying to get the best out of each other," Thurston said.
"We aren't far off. In patches we have been pretty good, but we haven't been able to do it on a consistent basis.
"We're reviewing where we need to be better and we need to be up for the challenge.
"If Morgo or anyone else in the team sees an opportunity, it's important for that person to have the confidence to get the ball at the right time to take advantage of those opportunities.
"You have to break down defences and you don't get many opportunities. If Morgo sees an opportunity, I want him to take it."
Thurston's season-ending shoulder injury midway through 2017 was in some ways the making of Morgan.
The Townsville product lifted in the absence of Thurston and produced a stunning run of form to guide the Cowboys to a fairytale grand final appearance, earning a five-year contract extension.
Morgan, 26, was determined to not take a backwards step this season when Thurston returned, but their combination is yet to click and North Queensland is battling for consistency.
Morgan said talk of a crisis meeting with Thurston was premature, but they had discussed their woes.
"I'm trying to do my job within our team," he said.
"We have our own expectations of what we want and the way we want to play. I'm just trying to keep doing that for the team.
"It's a lesser role than what I was doing last year but I'm fine with that. Johnno is the halfback here and our leader. He's the one that gets us around.
"When I said that (we would have a discussion) it wasn't like we were having a deep and meaningful chat. It was just a conversation and we do that every week anyway.
"When you're losing there is plenty of meetings.
"We've talked about how we can be better and ways to improve what we're doing. It's what we've got to do until we really start nailing it."
Few expected the Cowboys to be sitting 1-4 following last year's stunning season and the addition of Kangaroos prop Jordan McLean, who is facing at least three months on sidelines with a foot injury.
The Cowboys should beat the Bulldogs to get their season back on track and Morgan said North Queensland was not far off its best.
"We know we haven't been anywhere near our best," he said.
"The second half on the weekend was the closest we have been, defensively anyway. There is still plenty to work on in attack.
"When you're going well you are working to maintain things you're doing. At the moment we're really working to improve and get better."
Fullback Lachlan Coote will make his first appearance of the season for the Cowboys, giving Thurston and Morgan another kicking option.