AS INJURY-hit North Queensland lurch closer to crisis point, Dragons forward Joel Thompson is determined to prove St George Illawarra’s title credentials in a month of games against the NRL’s “big dogs”.
Windang and Port Kembla junior Kane Linnett became the latest Cowboys player hurt, struggling with a leg problem on Monday and in doubt for Saturday’s game at WIN Stadium.
It comes after superstar halfback Johnathan Thurston suffered a calf injury in the loss to the Tigers, which will keep him out for at least three weeks.
The Cowboys are already missing Jake Granville and Shaun Fensom (leg), Antonio Winterstein (broken arm) and Matt Scott (knee). In contrast, fullback Josh Dugan is an outside chance to play on Saturday, as he completed light running duties at a training session at WIN Stadium on Monday.
St George Illawarra tackle the Roosters on Anzac Day, then last year’s grand finalists Melbourne and premiers Cronulla after the Cowboys in what could be a season-defining month.
The Dragons surged to the top of the NRL charts after the Storm succumbed to the Sharks in torrential Melbourne rain on Sunday.
“There’s some big dogs we’ve got coming up,” Thompson said.
“Yeah, we’ve got all the big boys, it’s going to test us as a team and where we’re at, the character of the team and if we can stand up and deliver.”
A crushing 34-16 loss to Parramatta at WIN Stadium is the only blemish on a stunning start to the season for the Dragons.
While the Cowboys are facing life without key troops, Thompson said the Dragons had to steel themselves for a battle against the benchmark forward pack of recent seasons.
“They’ve been the top forward pack over the last few years,” he said.
“So it’s going to be a great challenge for us, they’ve got great depth, great players to come in there.
“Everyone is thinking it should be an easy game, but it won’t be, they’ll come here ready to play, they’ll be passionate and we’ve got to be ready for that.”
A hamstring strain in the victory over Wests meant Dugan missed the thumping 36-10 win over Manly.