Thurston's successor a race in two, says Bennett
Brisbane Broncos coach Wayne Bennett believes Maroons coach Kevin Walters has only two genuine options as the state of Queensland was left reeling with the news that their champion five-eighth Johnathan Thurston will miss Origin III and the rest of the season.
Keeping the Series alive with a sideline conversion that will now live on for eternity as the final act of one of the greatest Origin careers of all time, Thurston woke up on Thursday morning confident he could avoid surgery on his troublesome shoulder that copped another battering on Wednesday night.
Scans later that day revealed that surgery was in fact necessary and both Thurston and the Cowboys were forced to quickly come to terms with the fact that he had played his last game for 2017.
Brisbane five-eighth Anthony Milford filled in for Thurston in Game One but given he is currently sidelined with a shoulder injury of his own the question now is whether to promote Cowboys utility Michael Morgan from the bench or partner Cameron Munster with Storm teammate Cooper Cronk for his Origin debut.
Munster was with the Queensland team in Sydney to witness Thurston's heroics as 18th man and Bennett believes he has seen enough to indicate he will handle the step up in class.
"I think he's a very talented football player," Bennett said prior to news breaking that Thurston was indeed out for the year.
"He plays well at fullback, he plays well at five-eighth so I'm sure he could handle the centres if he had to or maybe they put someone else in the centres and they put him at five-eighth if they have to.
"You're looking for a five-eighth [if Thurston is out] so I've got to assume they'll either go for Munster or Morgan. That's what I'd be doing anyway."
Having issued four debutants their Origin opportunities in order to keep the Series alive Queensland coach Kevin Walters will now have a week to digest how he replaces not only Thurston but also Darius Boyd who suffered a broken thumb and will be out for an expected six weeks.
If Munster was to be handed the No.6 jersey the obvious way to cover for the departure of Boyd would be to recall Corey Oates onto the left wing, shift Valentine Holmes to his preferred right wing position and play Will Chambers and Dane Gagai in the centres.
They are selections that will be debated between now and kick-off at Suncorp Stadium on July 2 but Walters has full faith that he has the players at his disposal ready to finish off the job that Thurston helped to rescue.
"It's obviously a big void to fill for the Maroons, but we have got some good options there available to us," Walters said.
"We will see what happens over the next few weeks and the next two rounds of NRL before we make our decision."