Thurston guns for Joey in NRL showdown - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Thurston guns for Joey in NRL showdown

By Laine Clark 12/04/2006 05:25:01 PM Comments (0)

If Andrew Johns is outplayed by Johnathan Thurston in their eagerly-waited NRL showdown on Sunday, he'll have only himself to blame.

Thurston has revealed he'd compiled his own highlights package of his "idol" Johns in action this season and studied it closely.

The extra homework will be tested when reigning Dally M Medallist Thurston comes up against halfback great Johns in the top-of-the-table blockbuster between North Queensland and Newcastle at EnergyAustralia Stadium.

But Thurston believes it has already made him a better player.

"I think so. I've had a good look at it, noticed a few things that he has done at different parts of the field," Thurston told AAP.

"I've been looking at the lines he runs when he is going through the defence and how he brings (support) players through."

Cowboys vice-captain Thurston is widely considered to be playing better this season than in 2005 when he pipped great Johns for the Dally M Medal.

Legend Wally Lewis says Thurston is currently the NRL's No.1 player while Knights coach Michael Hagan has compared the 22-year-old to Johns at the same stage of his career.

Thurston said comparisons with Johns were "overwhelming".

"I remember sitting down all the time when I was younger watching Joey (Johns) play so it is a bit flattering," he said.

"It is actually overwhelming being held in that regard. I haven't achieved anything in rugby league compared to him."

Cowboys coach Graham Murray named Thurston at halfback and utility Justin Smith at five-eighth after regular No.7 Brett Firman was dropped.

It put Thurston on a collision course with Johns.

"He was definitely an idol of mine, along with Locky (Brisbane's Darren Lockyer)," Thurston said.

"I always enjoyed watching them play. I didn't really follow rugby league (on TV) when I was growing up. I was always out in the yard playing it.

"But when I got to 15, 16 I started to watch the boys (Johns, Lockyer) a little bit more specifically."

Outclassing Johns in Sunday's on Sunday's showdown is considered Thurston's best chance of clinching selection for Australia in the Anzac Test against New Zealand at Brisbane on May 5.

But Thurston was not worrying about his Test selection chances.

"Not at all, it's totally out of my hands," he said.

Thurston was also not interested in responding to newspaper reports that claimed he would this week be offered a $1.2 million, three-year contract extension that would keep him at the Cowboys until 2010.

While the undefeated Cowboys have carved a reputation as an attacking outfit, Thurston said North Queensland now prided itself on its defence - and statistics back him up.

The Cowboys have conceded less than 12 points a game as they cruised to the top of the table with a 5-0 record ahead of No.2 outfit Newcastle (4-1).

Murray has suggested downing reigning champions Wests Tigers - boasting attacking weapons Benji Marshall and Scott Prince - last round showed that the Cowboys could handle a Johns-led Newcastle which leads the NRL in attack.

"It's a difficult one, but I suppose if we're ever going to we're in good form to do that," he told ABC.

But North Queensland's Test backrower Luke O'Donnell wasn't so sure.

"No disrespect but I don't think you can compare young guys like Benji Marshall with Andrew Johns. You can't match his experience," he said.

A final decision on the fitness of Cowboys hooker Aaron Payne (neck) will be made on Thursday.

Brought to you by AAP AAP © 2020 AAP

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