Thurston: Origin hopefuls will have to wait
There are Test players waiting to take their place but Queensland five-eighth Johnathan Thurston says he has no intentions of handing his Queensland No.6 jersey over to the next generation of Maroons.
For the first time in eight years Queensland players enter an NRL season without the aura of state supremacy surrounding them ahead of an Origin Series in 2015 that will be played in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.
The Maroons are in the unique position of having two incumbent Kangaroos in Daly Cherry-Evans and Ben Hunt who still can't crack the starting 13 with Broncos recruit Anthony Milford also biding his time in the Emerging Origin camps.
The broken arm suffered by Cooper Cronk in Game One last year allowed Cherry-Evans to earn his first starting position for the Maroons in Game Two but even his preparation was restricted by injury concerns that had Hunt on standby.
The withdrawal of Thurston from the Four Nations opened the way for Cherry-Evans to play in all four matches for the Kanagroos and Hunt made three appearances off the bench but both will fall back down the pecking order when Queensland selectors convene ahead of Game One on May 27.
The retirement of Brent Tate last year and the achilles injury to Darius Boyd may see the ushering in of the next wave of outside backs into the Queensland Origin arena but Thurston is insistent that hopeful halves will have to wait their turn.
"I've got no plans on retiring on that jersey or giving that jersey up so I think the selectors will have to kick me out of it," said Thurston, Origin's all-time leading point-scorer and with 30 consecutive Origin appearances dating back to Game One, 2005.
"Mal (Meninga, Queensland coach) and the QRL are putting things in place to make sure that we are successful in the future and one great thing about Queensland is they keep producing great players and no doubt we've got some waiting in the wings."
At the launch of the Maroon Members program on Tuesday Brent Tate highlighted the emergence of players such as Dane Gagai and Dale Copley following the debut of Will Chambers on the wing in Game Three last year.
He spoke of his excitement at seeing a "changing of the guard" but Thurston believes the pain of an Origin Series defeat will be a powerful motivator for those who played in the 2014 Origin Series.
"Of course it does," Thurston said when asked whether the loss gave him extra motivation. "It's a tough arena to play in and it's a tough shield to win. I've been lucky to win so many of them but that's the challenge for us now, to win it back.
"A lot of those boys hadn't been in that situation before or been a part of a losing Series, there was only a handful of us had so that's the challenge for us now.
"We're in a different boat now to where we were in the past and that's what's so exciting for us."