CAUTIOUS North Queensland coach Paul Green says he may have to protect his gun playmaker Johnathan Thurston from himself if there is any risk about him taking the field tonight against Melbourne.
The Cowboys skipper, who's been receiving treatment for a hamstring injury for the past week, is keen to play in the Townsville blockbuster and Green is prepared to give him as much time as needed.
But he will not gamble on playing Thurston (pictured) if there is a possibility the match-winner could tear his hamstring and possibly miss several weeks' action, including the finals.
"He trained, but we're not going to take any unnecessary risks until we see how he pulls up tomorrow,” Green said.
"A guy like him, we'll give him as long as possible. He gets a say and we listen to the medical staff but, in the end, the buck stops with me.
"Your best players want to play all the time. They take pride in backing up after State of Origin.
"But sometimes you have to protect the players from themselves.”
While the Sharks (36 points) and Melbourne (34) look to have the top two spots on the ladder in their keeping, North Queensland (28) is just one point ahead of Canberra in third spot with the Bulldogs (26) fifth and teams lining up for the next three places in the top eight.
"The players recognise it's a bit bigger game than normal but I don't make any bigger deal of it,” Green said.
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