Thurston winds back the clock
A special day deserves a special performance. That was Paul Green's take on Johnathan Thurston's high-octane game at Barlow Park on Sunday.
The Cowboys' 20-0 victory was stalwart Gavin Cooper's 150th game for the club, with the coach seeing Thurston's performance as homage to Cooper's dedication to North Queensland.
The oldest player on the team, the 33-year-old was a man on a mission on Sunday. Seldom had we ever seen Thurston take the line on at the rate he did, clocking 18 runs for 144 metres.
An early line break became two, and while his usual puppet master act was spectacular, it was evident that his method was to take the Bunnies' line to task personally.
"I don’t think he's ever run for that many metres, I might have to put him in the No.8 jersey next week," Green joked after the game.
"It was [Cooper's] 150th [game with North Queensland] and to be fair our performances have been good without being great.
"I think [Thurston] wanted to make sure we played well."
Thurston was first to cross the line with a scoot out of dummy-half, which served to amplify his show-and-go game and take fans back a decade to when he was the league's best exponent of the play.
From leading kick-chases to showcasing that irresistible read-and-react decision making, Thurston was omnipresent on Sunday, and it earned him a spell four minutes from full-time.
While the preservation of his health has been a key point of interest for Cowboys coaching staff, Green apparently did not mind that his best player was putting his body on the line with such regularity.
"He put himself in the game and was dangerous when he touched the ball. It was good to see," Green said.
Another ball-runner who took the NRL by storm early on in his career, Rabbitohs captain Greg Inglis lauded his State of Origin captain after the game.
"He's just one of those players who just does everything at a high speed," Inglis said.
"He is one who can always stay in the game for 80 minutes, and you can do all the homework on him and nullify his options but at the end of the day he's a world class player.
"We just gave him too many options to play."
Five Cowboys are now headed to State of Origin camps ahead of Game III, while an understrength North Queensland will go from a toasty Sunday afternoon in the tropics to a Canberra Monday night game in the dead of winter.