Parramatta caused an upset against the Cowboys in Darwin.
Parramatta caused an upset against the Cowboys in Darwin.

Mal’s massive JT call after Cowboys crash

KANGAROOS coach Mal Meninga has sensationally called for Michael Morgan to replace Johnathan Thurston as Cowboys halfback in a desperate bid to rescue North Queensland's disastrous season.

The Cowboys fell to a new low in Darwin on Saturday night, making 20 errors as they slumped to their 10th loss of the season with a 20-14 defeat to last-placed Parramatta at TIO Stadium.

The annus horribilis that has been the Cowboys of 2018 has left North Queensland with a near impossible scenario to make the finals.

With only four wins in the opening 14 rounds, the Cowboys must win at least nine of their final 10 matches to have any chance of making the play-offs in Thurston's farewell season.

A red line could be put through the Cowboys now if they had not of produced the unthinkable last year in qualifying for the grand final despite missing their biggest stars.

But this year's assignment is an entirely new challenge and nine-time Origin series winning coach Meninga believes Cowboys mentor Paul Green needs to make the biggest call of his career to rescue Thurston's final NRL campaign.

Morgan, rested from Saturday night's match with a groin injury, will replace Thurston in the No. 7 next year, but Meninga said Green should move the four-time Dally M champion to five-eighth now.

Johnathan Thurston will retire at season's end.
Johnathan Thurston will retire at season's end.

"Morgs should play seven, he needs to be on the football," Meninga said.

"He thinks less (at halfback). When he is thinking less he plays his best footy.

"John can sit back and play six. He needs to take the back seat.

"(Morgan) played seven basically all last year and was the competition's best player. He needs to be on the ball.

"He does worry about things so the less he thinks and more he plays with instinct the better he will get."

Jarryd Hayne scored an impressive double for the Eels/
Jarryd Hayne scored an impressive double for the Eels/

Meninga's call came as the Cowboys slumped to their fourth loss in five games as the Jarryd Hayne-inspired Eels notched just their third win of the season.

Hayne bagged a double in his first match back from a six-game lay-off with a hip injury, the first coming when North Queensland's Te Maire Martin and Sam Hoare practically watched him barge over from a quick tap.

After being denied a try following a debatable forward pass, Cowboys winger Kyle Feldt finished off a half-chance to make it 4-all at the end of an uninspiring first half.

Parramatta's George Jennings scored early in the second half and Hayne bagged his second shortly after, albeit following a dubious put-down which could have been denied by The Bunker.

Jason Taumalolo did everything he could to inspire the Cowboys.
Jason Taumalolo did everything he could to inspire the Cowboys.

The Cowboys could not find any luck, again denied due to a dubious forward pass call after Thurston put Gavin Cooper in before Feldt bombed a golden opportunity.

Up the other end, another mistake by fullback Lachlan Coote allowed Michael Jennings to sink North Queensland's season as Matt Scott and Enari Tuala claimed late consolation tries.

"It's pretty embarrassing," Thurston said.

"It's a pretty hollow feeling. When you turn the ball over as much as we did we've only got ourselves to blame.

"We need to have a good, hard look at ourselves."

PARRAMATTA 20 (J Hayne 2 M Jennings G Jennings tries C Gutherson 2 goals) bt NORTH QUEENSLAND 14 (K Feldt M Scott E Tuala tries J Thurston goal) at TIO Stadium. Referee: Gavin Badger, Peter Gough. Crowd: 8,393.

Watch every game of every round of the 2018 NRL Telstra Premiership on FOX SPORTS.