Smith adds fuel to Thurston speculation
The 'will he, won't he' saga surrounding Johnathan Thurston's availability to take the field for Queensland in the Holden State of Origin Series opener next Wednesday appears set to carry through until kick-off with skipper Cameron Smith declaring he could play without a single training session with the team.
As Broncos five-eighth Anthony Milford was brought before the media for his first press conference as a Queensland State of Origin player on Tuesday the guessing game surrounding Thurston's fitness continued, the champion North Queensland half joining his teammates for training on Tuesday afternoon but performing only very light duties as he continues to nurse a shoulder injury back to full health.
By naming Milford in the No.6 jersey and Thurston as 18th man the Maroons are very much taking the approach that they will start the series with a new halves combination but Smith says history suggests that Thurston remains a very good chance of playing a 37th consecutive Origin match for Queensland.
"I give him every chance, to be honest," Smith about Thurston, with whom he has played all but four of his 39 Origin matches to date.
"Even though he's named as 18th man, I give him every chance.
"I've played in three or four representative matches where 'JT' has been in doubt and he's got up every time.
"He's such a resilient person... it's like he challenges himself to get back and be right for the game. You've got to be tough to play 36 consecutive Origins.
"At this stage it's highly unlikely but I think he's shown in the past that if there's a challenge involved, he's up for it.
"He's going to be given every chance... Kevvie (Walters) has already told us that. He'll be given until kick-off to be right."
It wouldn't be an Origin camp without some kind of chaos caused by an injury concern or two but in recent years it has been halfback Cooper Cronk who has sent the greatest scares through the state.
Prior to Game One last year an ankle injury to Cronk had the champion Storm No.7 under the microscope until the moment he put his right boot on to run out and Smith was adamant that Thurston deserved just as long to prove himself.
"Of course he is (good enough)," Smith said when asked whether Thurston could play without a single training run with the team.
"He's the best player in the game. He hasn't got there on luck. He's one of the most experienced players at this level.
"He came into the Test without playing for four weeks and he was one of the best players on the field. We'd be very confident with him on the park.
"We're all accustomed to him (Thurston) being out there. But Anthony is a fantastic player. He's been knocking on the door for a few years now."
The Queenslanders will transfer from their base in Brisbane to the InterContinental Sanctuary Cove Resort on Wednesday before ramping up their training sessions on Thursday and Friday where Milford will be encouraged to bring his extraordinary array of skills to the fore.
"We have to get him up to speed with what we need him to do for us," Smith explained.
"That may be slightly different to what he does at the Broncos but we won't be hemming him in too much.
"We'll be encouraging him to show those skills."