Thurston sends warning to finals opponents
Despite receiving some rough treatment from Canberra on Saturday night, Cowboys leader Johnathan Thurston said his body is in great shape heading into the NRL Telstra Premiership finals and North Queensland's best shot at a title in club history.
Drawing the attention of defenders week-in, week-out plus his taxing representative schedule, Thurston is used to running on fumes by this time of year.
However, with a better pre-season under his belt along with a well-earned rest in Round 16 against the Sharks, Thurston says he feels uncharacteristically energised.
"This is probably as fresh as I've felt at the back end of the year," he said after the win over the Raiders.
"It's an exciting time for the club, we've never been in this position before.
"Normally after an Origin period we're chasing our tails, so mentally and physically it takes its toll on you. But we put ourselves in a good position and that's what is so refreshing about it. You enjoy coming to training and when you're winning it helps."
Thurston was in the wars on Saturday night.
Along with Canberra's rushing tactics that have proven to be the only method of slowing him down, he ran a scare through the Cowboys camp, staying down after play was whistled dead twice in the first half with an apparent knee complaint.
But in a show of both his individual resilience and respect for co-captain Matt Scott's 200th NRL game, Thurston broke the pain barrier and kept playing to steer his side to victory.
"(The knee) is a little bit banged up but that's footy. There was a little bit of pain there," he said.
"I didn't feel like it was bad. I just needed to run it off and once I could do that I knew it was fine. It didn't give me any more trouble for the rest of the game."
While Thurston is experiencing no physical hurdles, his side still finds itself largely disengaged through periods of games.
In what could be seen as a double-edged sword, Scott explained that North Queensland never hit the panic button due to their unbridled confidence in scoring points.
"We know we can score points so we don't panic. It's probably a difference in our game this year," he said.
"We stay composed and we know once we start completing our sets and defending well, with guys like 'Johnno', 'Cootey' and 'Morgs' there's going to be points off the back of that.
"I think it's a mental approach to the game; being switched on from the start, knowing your role, knowing your job. As a group of 17 players, we're not all doing our job well enough at the moment. Once we start doing that a little bit better, we can see the type of footy we can play.
"It's about getting through our sets, getting to our kick and once we started doing that in the second half we started controlling the game. It's a group effort from 1-17."