Johnathan Thurston, right, lines up for the national anthem on Thursday night. Picture: Phil Hillyard
Johnathan Thurston, right, lines up for the national anthem on Thursday night. Picture: Phil Hillyard

JT statement on jersey ‘protest’

COWBOYS superstar Johnathan Thurston has released a statement to deny suggestions he staged a protest during the Cowboys' Indigenous Round loss to the Wests Tigers on Thursday night.

Thurston was spotted on social media lining up for the singing of the Australian national anthem at Leichhardt Oval with a piece of tape stuck across the NRL badge on his chest.

The tape was seen covering the letters "RL" on the NRL logo.

The conspiracy theories came thick and fast with speculation the 35-year-old might have been trying to send a political message.

A statement issued by the Cowboys quoted Thurston declaring he had no "idea" how the tape got onto his Indigenous Round jumper.

"I have absolutely no idea how the tape got on to the NRL logo on my jersey last night," he said.

"I want to ensure people it was not a protest and that I am a proud Aboriginal man that is 100 per cent supportive of the NRL's Indigenous Round."

In typical JT fashion, he proved himself to be all class yet again following his team's loss.

One fan at the game spotted Thurston walking to the far side of the ground to hand his protective headgear to a young fan.

He did the same thing with another young fan as the Cowboys got on their team bus to leave the suburban venue.

Mbye confirms cap crunch fears

MOSES Mbye concedes he could fall victim to Canterbury's salary cap crunch but refuses to take it personally should he be forced out next NRL season.

Despite being one of the Bulldogs' few shining lights during their lacklustre opening 10 rounds, the playmaker-turned-pivot is reportedly being shopped around to rival clubs.

Mbye could neither confirm or deny the reports but admitted there was likely something in the rumours, especially given the Bulldogs' dire salary cap position for next year was well-documented.

"I don't know where we're at," Mbye said.

"Normally where there's smoke there's fire. I'm sure the call's been made. I understand the business side of it, I get that it's probably an option that the club needs to go in that direction.

"I'm not looking to leave this club, I want to stay.

"I haven't had that discussion with anyone, with any other club and our club hasn't approached me at all."

With 14 players off contract at season's end, it is believed the Dogs have about $750,000 worth of cap space for 2019.

Greg Eastwood has been told to look for another club while Brett and Josh Morris concede they are unlikely to be at Belmore next year.

A pragmatist, Mbye refused to kick stones or be bitter.

"I get it, I understand where we're at," Mbye said.

"I don't know the fine details but I understand we're not in that good of a way salary cap-wise.

"It doesn't hurt. And the reason it doesn't hurt is because I understand where we're at."

Despite scoring a controversial 20-12 win over Parramatta on Friday night, the Bulldogs are still in strife at 3-7.

Asked if the constant negative headlines and uncertainty about their roster had affected the group, Mbye said it was water off a duck's back.

"It probably comes down to a tight-knit group being together for a number of years and going through these sorts of situations," he said.

"Adversity builds really strong bonds especially between blokes like us. When you get in these situations, you get really tight-knit with people in similar situations."


Knights coach calls for captain review

NEWCASTLE coach Nathan Brown has renewed calls for the NRL to consider introducing the captain's challenge as a way to increase fatigue in the game.

Brown's comments come a day after the governing body confirmed the competition committee would look at reducing the interchange from eight to six at the end of the season.

It also came after play was stopped for an injured Viliame Kikau for a few minutes early in the Knights' 29-18 loss to Penrith on Friday night.

Brown complained that Kikau was allowed time to recover and continue his assault on smaller Knights five-eighth Connor Watson for the rest of the night.

"Why not just let the game go? They were going to get the ball anyway, and there's a minute's stoppage already. There's so many stupid things like that that we're doing as a game," Brown said.

Brown went on to claim that the NRL hadn't asked for feedback from the Knights when the captain's challenge was trialled in a dead-rubber match against St George Illawarra in 2016.

He said it not only would further reduce stoppages, but it would be another way to alleviate pressure from match officials.

"The video ref never got called into the game at all in that contest and no one really bothered ringing us up and asking us any feedback what we thought about it, so it was a waste of time doing it," he said.

"The reduced interchange would help open the game up so I'd be a fan of it, but we can do other things in the meantime which can help give us more time on the field, get more fatigue in the game as well." Brown was also scathing of his team's ill-discipline against the Panthers, including a Watson brain snap that denied teammate Jacob Saifiti a crucial try in the first half.

It came moments before Watson also failed to connect with Brock Lamb for another certain try.

"I'm not really bothered by the pass. Those things happen. That can happen in the run of the play and he can look at it and think maybe I shouldn't have thrown it, maybe I should've took them on," Brown said.

"I'm more disappointed in the discipline one because we can't afford to have that."