JT's NRL swan song on verge of collapse

Johnathan Thurston's last season has taken another hit in North Queensland's NRL loss to Canberra.
Johnathan Thurston's last season has taken another hit in North Queensland's NRL loss to Canberra.

Johnathan Thurston's swan song NRL season is near crisis point after North Queensland's fall to second last after round eight.

The Cowboys are sitting above Parramatta only on for-and-against after the Eels' 24-22 see-sawing derby victory on Sunday against the Wests Tigers.

The Cowboys' spluttering 18-8 loss to Canberra on Saturday night is not only their first home defeat to the Raiders since 2006, it leaves them in real danger of missing the top eight for the first time in Paul Green's tenure.

Title fancies before the season kickoff, they have lost six of their past seven, with last week's win over Gold Coast their only joy in that time.

Of particular concern is the form of five-eighth Michael Morgan, who has been well below his best after guiding a Thurston-less Cowboys last year to a heroic grand final appearance.

Thurston and Morgan have looked on different pages in the first eight rounds and there's a push to move the Queensland and Australian playmaker to fullback.

Morgan was shifted to the back by Green in the closing stages against the Raiders, with the presence of Te Maire Martin on the bench making it a viable option.

"I think they need more thrust; they're a side that lacks speed compared to other teams," former Eels great Peter Sterling told the Nine Network's Sunday Footy Show.

"I think Michael Morgan is a consideration for fullback and that's no disrespect to Lachlan Coote - he's a fine player.

"I think Te Maire Martin comes in; he offers something just a little bit different. Michael Morgan can do what Lachlan Coote can do. He can come up and play short sides like a five-eighth.

"He played there the last 10 minutes last night and he came on the last 10 minutes when they got beaten by Penrith up in North Queensland earlier in the season - and they looked different.

"I just wonder whether there might be a tough decision to be made."

The Eels recorded their second win in a row on Sunday at ANZ Stadium with the lead changing hands five times before a Manu Ma'u four-pointer 11 minutes from time sealed the result.

Earlier on Saturday, Chad Townsend booted a last-minute field goal in Cronulla's 10-9 defeat of Gold Coast which came at a cost with Josh Dugan going down with a leg injury.

Penrith's injury crisis worsened with fullback Dylan Edwards suffering a dislocated shoulder in their 22-14 win over Canterbury.

Kalyn Ponga was the hero as Newcastle upset Manly 18-12 with a season-ending knee injury to five-eighth Lachlan Croker capping a horror month for the Sea Eagles.

Teenage sensation Payne Haas made a memorable debut in Brisbane's 24-20 win over South Sydney.

Melbourne flexed their premiership muscle with a 50-10 victory over the Warriors to jump into the top four.

Ben Hunt starred as St George Illawarra maintained their footing at the top of the ladder with a 24-8 Anzac Day victory over the Sydney Roosters.

Australian Associated Press