Norman boosts Eels but no word on Thurston
PARRAMATTA'S playmaking talisman has been given the green light, but whether Cowboys star Johnathan Thurston follows suit in Darwin tonight remains a mystery.
Corey Norman will partner Wests Tigers recruit Mitch Moses in the Eels halves for the first time after being cleared to return from a knee injury.
All eyes will be on who trots out in the Cowboys' playmaking positions, with Bundaberg product Kyle Laybutt to debut should Thurston (shoulder) fail to prove his fitness.
If Thurston doesn't play he faces preparing for his 37th State of Origin for Queensland with just one game under his belt in 74 days.
Norman and Moses had their second training session together in the Top End yesterday, and Eels coach Brad Arthur isn't expecting any miracles from the new-look combo.
Interestingly, Norman had a huge game in Parramatta's 26-6 win in Townsville in round nine, while Moses was man of the match in the Tigers' 26-16 upset of North Queensland in round six.
"It's going to take some time. They're going into a game with only two sessions together," Arthur said.
"They're going to be a bit disjointed at times, but I'm sure they'll bring energy and at some stage they'll link together and look like they've been around for a while.
"For the moment instinct will get them through, and a lot of energy will get them through."
The Eels have won all three of their annual clashes in Darwin, as did the Cowboys in their sole visit in 2012 against the Roosters 50-12.
Arthur insisted whether Thurston played or not wouldn't affect the Eels' plan of attack in the brutal Darwin heat.
"He's a quality player and one of the best in the world, we're planning as if he's playing," Arthur said.
"I'm sure they'll like him to play and if he does he's a really important 'in' for them, but we have to worry about what we do playing in those conditions.
"Completion rates and making tackles are really important."
Cowboys five-eighth Michael Morgan has no doubt his halves partner and Queensland teammate will no have dramas playing in the do-or-die Origin in Sydney on June 21 without any football under his belt.
"He's played in 36 of them so he knows what those games take, and he's been doing a fair bit of training as well," Morgan said.
"I'm sure fitness wise he'll be fine and he's done it all before."