Thurston to lift with shift to seven
Among all the uncertainty in North Queensland’s camp at the moment, one thing is for sure: Johnathan Thurston is pleased to see the back of Beau Scott, but not that he will let you know.
Thurston’s impact has been reduced of late since Scott continued to put a target on his back in State of Origin Game Two and last Monday at Newcastle. Everywhere 'JT' looked, Scott was there to cut down whatever puppet strings he was about to pull.
But despite all the pressures from opposition along with a corked quad suffered in Origin and an ankle that was stepped on by Jeremy Smith last round, the Cowboys co-captain says that he needs to put even more pressure on himself, wanting to rectify what have admittedly been below-par performances of late.
When asked whether he should play with a little self-preservation Saturday night against the Rabbitohs given all he has gone through recently, Thurston said: "It’s the opposite, I actually need to ramp things up.
"The boys need me to do my job and the last couple of weeks I’ve been poor at that so I’m really looking toward the opportunity to put the jersey back on [Saturday] night and hopefully putting our best foot forward."
Halves partner Robert Lui, however, disagrees.
“He is really hard on himself. We have actually talked about how we need to take some of the load off 'Johnno'. He’s working himself a little too hard I think,” Lui told NRL.com.
“He plays above his weight and they know he is one of our good players and they try to target him, and our forwards just have to get in there and take the pressure off him. At the back-end of the game, we need him.
“It was a tough Origin period and week-in, week-out he gives his all so we just have to take a bit of pressure off him and let Johnno be and then we play our footy and hopefully he adds a bit of brilliance too.”
Either not wanting to give away trade secrets or still working out the kinks, this week’s shift of Thurston to halfback and Lui to five-eighth brings about more differences of opinion between the two.
While Lui says he will carry the ball and take the line on more than usual, Thurston added: "Probably the only difference between it is just the numbers on the back to tell you the truth. With the structures that we play, not too much will change."
Either way, those two men at the helm will need to be on high alert with ball in hand against the tireless bloodhounds that exist in the South Sydney pack. And while they do not have the search and destroy type like Beau Scott, Thurston is already on guard.
"They’re all scary, those boys,” he said of the three 120-kilogram Burgess brothers lining up on Saturday.
"They wind up and they are obviously big boys and we just need to get our bodies in front of them. We are fighting for our season so I’m sure we’ll do that.
"Most of all, we need to make sure we’re holding the ball and controlling it. Our ball control has been pretty dismal in the last few weeks so if we’re giving the big boys all the ball and we’re tackling, we’re going to be in with a tough night."