Thurston should play beyond 2017: Smith
As Cameron Smith sets a new record for most Origin games played with every appearance for Queensland so too does Johnathan Thurston extend the record for most consecutive games played, and his skipper doesn't want it to end.
Thurston will play his 36th straight Origin match for the Maroons at ANZ Stadium on Wednesday night, joining Darren Lockyer as Origin's second-most capped player and keeping 10 clear of Darius Boyd for most consecutive appearances.
Before Thurston claimed the mantle with his 25th straight Origin match for Queensland in Game One, 2013, Gary Larson held the record for Origin longevity with 24 but now the North Queensland champion is setting a mark unlikely to ever be broken.
Thurston has previously indicated that the 2017 State of Origin Series would likely be his last but said in camp ahead of Game Three he was starting to reconsider that plan.
He and Smith are the two most influential players in the game today and the Maroons skipper believes he should play on as long as he remains one of the state's premier players.
"I believe he was considering next year to be his last series in Origin but after we won this year's series it gave him a little reminder of what it's like to taste victory at this level and how special it actually is," Smith said.
"He's waited a long time for that premiership up at North Queensland and he delivered that last year along with the rest of his teammates so he probably thought he'd achieved everything he wanted to achieve. Six months later and he's back in Origin and he's got that taste back again of winning Origin series and he's reconsidering.
"If he wants to finish next year then that's his decision and we'll wish him good luck but if he's playing well and he's the best man for the job to wear that No.6 jersey then I'd like to see him play as long as he can."
Now 33 years of age, Thurston did suggest that his plan still was to step down from representative football at the completion of the 2017 Rugby League World Cup but admitted that the success of the 2016 Maroons has reinforced his love of all things Origin.
"It's probably a little bit harder to deal with now because it seems like it's starting to come to an end but in saying that I'm still loving it like it's my first series," Thurston said.
"I'm going to miss it but I still love everything about it, the concept, the 10 days we spend in camp with the boys, it's quite special.
"I'm having second thoughts now. For me it's about making it to the World Cup and then once the rep football's all done I'll make a decision then."
Over the past decade Thurston has sacrificed his body at the defensive line so that his ball runners are given the greatest opportunity at making an inroad but rarely has he been forced from the field.
In Game Three of the 2011 series a sickening accident buckled his knee 22 minutes from full-time of the decider, with Thurston later emerging from the dressing rooms in a wheelchair to take part in the Queensland celebrations.
Thurston's body is not that much bigger than the one scouts said all those years ago couldn't withstand the rigours of first grade footy but Smith said it was his good friend's mental strength that had enabled him to accumulate such an incredible record of endurance.
"He's physically tough but he's tougher mentally more than anything," said Smith, who will play his 39th game for Queensland on Wednesday night.
"We all see the whacks that he gets every game but he bounces up every time. He never stays on the ground, he just gets up and gets on with his job so that's a sign of a special player.
"He's done it for such a long time now, 36 games in a row is a special effort in the position that he plays, and playing against the size of blokes that are playing our game at the moment, it's a wonderful achievement.
"I'm sure he realises it's a very special thing that he's done and we're all grateful that he's wearing a Maroon jersey."