Andrew Bryan, NRL.com
It is the promoter’s dream that has North Queensland captain Johnathan Thurston salivating ahead of their elimination final against Brisbane at Dairy Farmers Stadium on Saturday night.
The local derby is always a highly anticipated fixture on the calendar, but that fact Townsville will host a knock-out clash between the two great rivals is set to take the intensity to a whole new level.
And the Cowboys would love nothing more than knocking the Broncos out of the NRL competition.
“I think it is a promoters dream,” Thurston told NRL.com.
“Week one of the finals, local derby, Broncos versus the Cowboys. We have beaten them twice this year, but that all counts for nothing.
“Brisbane have certainly got their backs to the wall, but you can’t take them lightly with the stars they have got in their side. It is going to be a tough encounter.
“Week one of the finals we are playing Brisbane at Dairy Farmers Stadium, so it doesn’t get any bigger than that.”
The Cowboys head into the finals series full of confidence off the back of four consecutive victories.
They also believe they are the best placed they have been heading into a finals campaign, with only Tariq Sims on the injured list.
“The last few years after an Origin series we have had niggling injuries and I did my knee last year and we only just scraped into the eight,” Thurston said.
“This is probably the best the club has pulled up after an Origin series. We had a heavy representation throughout that series. The boys are fighting fit. It is an exciting time and we are proud to be a part of the final series and we are looking to do a bit of damage there.”
Thurston revealed the players had the option of resting ahead of their round 26 clash with the Sharks, but most decided to take the field a week before the finals.
Prop Matt Scott was the only player to sit out the 36-22 victory at Toyota Stadium.
“He is in no doubt,” Thurston said.
“We had the option of resting a few players, but moving into the finals you want to take that momentum, we have had four wins in a row and we are looking to build on that.
“There were a few players given the option (to rest), but we declined. The only reason Matt Scott didn’t play is because the coach said he is not playing. I think heading into the finals you want to take as much momentum (as possible) and we still have a few areas that we need to improve on and we will be looking to do that with our preparation this week.”
A key to the Cowboys' chances is the combination of Thurston and Matt Bowen. The pair have combined for 46 try-assists and 42 line-break assists this season.
There is no question their uncanny understanding is their most potent weapon heading into the do-or-die clash with Brisbane.
“We have formed a pretty lethal combination there,” Thurston said.
“We have played a lot of football alongside each other. I think we need to think about our big men in the middle third. They are laying a great platform for us and (Aaron) Payne is playing off the back of that.
“Me and Matt can certainly do some damage when our big men are going forward, they deserve a lot of credit there.”
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