Thurston puts end to Pearce feud
It was the image that encapsulated the most humiliating night in New South Wales Origin history and the torment Mitchell Pearce had endured in representing his state.
With Game Three of the 2015 Series already out of reach and on track for a record-breaking scoreline, Pearce arrived too late to stop Queensland centre Will Chambers from extending the Maroons' lead to 40 points and Johnathan Thurston pounced to have the cruel and cutting final word.
Allegedly taunted by Pearce for being "old" earlier in the series, Thurston advised Pearce to get a photo out the front of Suncorp Stadium with the statue of Wally Lewis, as that would be the closest he'd ever get to holding the State of Origin shield.
When you are on the receiving end of a record 52-6 scoreline and a sixth series without knowing the taste of victory you have no right of reply and as his life spiralled temporarily out of control at the start of 2016 it looked as though Pearce never would.
But on the back of a wonderful second half of the season with the Roosters last year and a brilliant beginning to 2017 Pearce has earned his Origin recall with his feud with Thurston now a thing of the past.
As attention centres on whether Thurston will recover from a shoulder injury in time to play for Queensland for a 37th consecutive time, he revealed that he and Pearce brought an end to their war of words following the Cowboys' Round 23 game against the Roosters in Sydney.
"There's been a lot of talk about Mitch and I and we had a really good chat after a game last year," Thurston said on Wednesday.
"As a rugby league community we get behind each other and it's good to see that he's come back and wrestled those mental demons and doing really good work in the community about that aspect and he's back to playing his best footy."
Receiving a mouthful of abuse from Thurston in his last Origin appearance may have tormented Pearce for the past two years but he admitted that given the nature of Queensland's dominance over a decade that he was entitled to say whatever he liked.
"He can say whatever he wants, he's done everything in the game, he's the best player I've ever played against," Pearce said this week.
"It's always a hell of a challenge coming up against Johnathan Thurston. Super player. I'm looking forward to the challenge again against a great player."
At this stage Thurston has to prove his fitness in order to supplant Anthony Milford as Queensland's five-eighth next Wednesday night but whether he plays or not said he is pleased to see Pearce being rewarded for his current form and not punished for any sins of the past.
"You want to play against the best and they've picked a halves pairing that are at the top of their game at the moment," Thurston said.
"That's part of Origin. You love coming up against the best and love being a part of those challenges.
"It's good to see him and Jimmy (James Maloney) playing their best footy and that's a big job for us."