Besieged Test star Johnathan Thurston has received the backing of his North Queensland teammates as he fights to hang onto the captaincy of the NRL club.
Thurston will front the Cowboys board in the coming weeks to explain himself after he was arrested by Brisbane police earlier this month and charged with being a public nuisance at a time he was recovering from injury.
The Townsville-based club are already in the midst of a review after they finished second-last this year, with only points-less Melbourne below them.
Thurston was this week ruled out of the Four Nations tournament beginning next month as he recovers from his ankle injury.
“We’ve got full support behind Johnno,” Cowboys centre Willie Tonga said at a grand final event in Sydney on Thursday.
“He gets himself into unfortunate circumstances sometimes but on the field you can’t question him, he’s definitely a great leader.
“He’s like a free spirit, off the field, he just sort of does what he does.
“I’m not sure whether he likes the responsibility of being the captain or being the big name player but he enjoys the leadership role.
“He wants to be a part of the Cowboys going forward and that’s his main focus in trying to keep his captaincy.
“(The great players) tend to get themselves into trouble outside of footy but on the field they do remarkable things.”
Tonga backed the club review, which has already resulted in a demotion for chief executive Peter Parr, and dismissed comments from departing forward Willie Mason that the responsibility rested with coach Neil Henry.
“It didn’t surprise me, Willie’s going to say whatever he thinks,” Tonga said.
“It just got frustrating towards the end, just knowing that we had the team on paper but we just couldn’t put it together.
“Everybody’s got to take responsibility for where we came … Everybody’s done that.”
Tonga said the Sydney Roosters’ turnaround from 2009 wooden-spooners to grand finalists this year would inspire the Cowboys.
“It gives everybody hope I guess, so nothing’s beyond reach,” he said.
With injuries hitting Australia’s centre stocks, Tonga is in the frame to play his first Test for Australia since 2005.
He got through last weekend’s Prime Minister’s XIII match against Papua New Guinea without aggravating a minor groin problem.