4 days ago
Recovering North Queensland skipper Johnathan Thurston has been described as a "speed hump" in defence by dual international Mat Rogers.
The Cowboys bristled at Rogers' claim that Thurston had come back too soon from two shoulder reconstructions and was a defensive liability.
To add further fuel, Rogers rated his Gold Coast Titans halves partner Scott Prince the best halfback in the game ahead of the Cowboys playmaker.
Thurston pulled off one of the great comebacks last Friday night, returning more than a month early from injury to notch 14 points including two tries in a 36-18 loss to the Gold Coast.
But Rogers was adamant Thurston shouldn't be playing.
"He may have scored two tries but he was a liability out there in defence," Rogers said on his website.
"I even ran straight over the top of him - twice - and I never get to use anyone as a speed hump."
Rogers said using Thurston now may come back to bite the Cowboys.
"Last year I made the same mistake of playing while injured, as did Princey and it didn't help us any," he said.
"I think maybe Johnathan should rest up and get himself right because if his shoulders are still hurting and he keeps playing they are only going to get worse."
Cowboys general manager Dean Lance said Thurston had shown "plenty of bravery" in his shock comeback.
"It was the right decision to play Thurston. He came through the game unscathed, he got stuck into the defence - there was no lacking of effort there," he told AAP.
"He got stuck into the first couple of tackles.
"There was plenty of bravery there.
"Mat Rogers has got his own opinion. They won the footy game, we are working on winning our next one."
Rogers didn't let up, heaping praise on in-form Gold Coast No.7 Prince.
"My good mate Scott Prince ... proved why he is the best halfback in the game - I'll say it again, the best halfback in the game," Rogers said.
"Johnathan Thurston is good but there is no doubt in my mind that Princey is better."
Lance admitted Prince was one of the NRL's form halfbacks.
But he said it was unfair to compare a recovering Thurston with Prince.
"Prince is playing great footy, he fits into their structure very well and they beat us on the night," he said.
"But our bloke came back from two shoulder reconstructions, scored two tries, had a hand in another one and kicked three goals from the sideline - that's not bad.
"We are not complaining about our No.7.
"They (Titans) are playing good footy and good luck to them - but our bloke is only going to get better."
The Cowboys said Thurston had backed up "100 per cent" from the first round game.
After donning the No.25 jersey as a last minute addition, Thurston will return in his familiar No.7 against the Wests Tigers at Townsville on Saturday night.
It will be the first time Test backrower Luke O'Donnell tackles Wests Tigers since last year's infamous "wishbone" tackle.