9 Aug 2011

Cowboys star set to make early return

6:17 am on 9 August 2011

Johnathan Thurston is on target to make an early return when North Queensland attempt to spoil record breaker Darren Lockyer's party in Friday night's NRL showdown in Townsville.

The champion halfback is expected to be named in the fourth-placed Cowboys team today and faces further fitness testing before a final decision on whether he plays in the key clash with third-placed Brisbane.

But there's growing confidence Thurston will be back after he did some encouraging contact training on Monday.

It would be his first match since suffering medial ligament damage in a sickening collision during Queensland's State of Origin series-deciding win on July the 6th.

Accommodation in Townsville is booked out for Friday's match with both teams trying to protect prized top four spots and Broncos skipper Lockyer set to break the competition record by playing his 350th game, moving past Terry Lamb and Steve Menzies.

Brisbane have their own injury concerns with representative prop Ben Hannant ruled out on Monday while they're monitoring a nasty facial injury to goal kicking lock Corey Parker.