Trainer Billy Johnstone allegedly threatened a touch judge during match in Townsville
- Brent Read
- From: The Australian
- April 16, 2010 12:00AM
THE repercussions from North Queensland’s spiteful game against Wests Tigers continued to flow yesterday when it emerged the NRL was investigating allegations that a Cowboys official threatened a touch judge.
NRL chief operating officer Graham Annesley confirmed his organisation was looking into an incident that allegedly occurred during the game at Dairy Farmers Stadium last Saturday, but declined to name the party involved.
However, The Australian understands the allegations have been made against high-profile trainer Billy Johnstone, who has been involved with the Queensland and Australian sides.
“I can confirm we are looking into a report of an incident between a match official and a club official at Dairy Farmers Stadium last Saturday night but until our inquiries have been completed, I am not prepared to name the officials involved nor any details of the alleged incident,” Annesley said.
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The Cowboys were notified of the investigation yesterday and Johnstone is expected to give his version of events to the club today.
North Queensland is already counting the cost of the Tigers game. Captain Johnathan Thurston was the highest profile victim of the clash, sustaining a shoulder injury that has sidelined him for up to four weeks.
Hooker Aaron Payne is also out for an extended period after injuring his ankle while forward Luke O’Donnell was suspended for three weeks.
News of the investigation into Johnstone came as Thurston’s manager contradicted claims from coach Neil Henry the Cowboys captain was close to re-signing.
Speaking on FoxSports on Wednesday night, Henry said he expected chief executive Peter Parr to finalise a deal with Thurston next week. However, Sam Ayoub claimed Thurston was “miles away” from re-signing with the club. Ayoub also claimed Thurston had received an increased offer from Biarritz – only two days after the French rugby union club’s coach insisted he was not chasing the Queensland and Australia halfback.
“Until we get our third-party agreements in place, we cannot commit to any NRL club let alone the Cowboys,” Ayoub said.
“The people that matter at the Cowboys are aware of that. At the end of the day no deal is done. We’re not anywhere near a deal.” Ayoub also ridiculed Biarritz coach Jack Isaac, who suggested Thurston had priced himself out of a move to the French club. “I have never spoken to him,” Ayoub said.
“We have spoken to a board member and a major player in the club. When I say we, we mean our agent. Our agent rang us last night with an increased offer.”
While Thurston continues to vacillate over a new deal, Queensland coach Mal Meninga has warned both the Cowboys skipper and Brisbane centre Israel Folau they could forgo their Maroons jerseys should they decide to switch codes.
Speculation involving Folau and the Melbourne Rebels Super 15 side refuses to go away, although Broncos officials believe he has given them a commitment he will play out the remaining two years of his contract.
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