Johns anoints Thurston as future No.7 - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Johns anoints Thurston as future No.7

By Todd Balym 01/05/2006 07:01:56 PM Comments (0)

Andrew Johns thought he would never play for Australia again, but in a storybook finish to his representative career he will close the curtain and hand the baton to his successor Johnathan Thurston.

The world's best halfback will play his final Test against New Zealand at Suncorp Stadium on Friday night, with 2005 Dally M Medal winner Thurston coming off the bench in his Test debut.

Johns and Thurston duelled for the NRL's top gong last year and the incredible form of the North Queensland Cowboy in 2006 has prompted Johns to anoint the 23-year-old the future Australian halfback.

"Probably the way he (Thurston) is playing he is the next one along," said Johns.

"His form is unbelievable. I'm sure he is going to take a lot out of this week being around all the top players.

"I'm going to learn a lot and I'm excited for him. I think he is going to have a good week."

Thurston was elated and humbled to earn his first Test cap after a wave of public support helped convince selectors to pick the Queenslander.

"It's a huge honour standing there in the team photo beside some of the names that are beside me," said Thurston.

"I didn't really give myself a chance in the Test side, I didn't want to get my hopes up and then be disappointed because I didn't make the side.

"I tried to keep myself on the outer a bit and now that I've made the side I'm over the moon."

Johns will play his 21st and final Test on Friday, over a decade since debuting at the 1995 World Cup in a 86-6 thrashing of South Africa.

A former Test captain, an horrific run of back, neck and knee injuries from 2003-2005 cut short the number of games Johns played in the green and gold.

With lingering concerns over his ageing body, Johns's commitment to Newcastle in the NRL prompted the 31-year-old to announce his retirement from rep footy after this Test and concentrate solely on the Knights.

After the 38-28 loss to the Kiwis at Telstra Stadium last year, in which Johns re-injured his knee, he is determined to leave the Test arena on the right note.

"My main focus is not about my last Test, it's about the team and a big challenge ahead," he said.

"Once we are on the field it does not matter who the favourite is, it's a game of football. I could not care less who is favourite, we are not feeling any pressure and I'm sure the Kiwis aren't either."

Johns can't list a highlight in the Kangaroos jumper, perhaps that is still to come, but he is grateful for every opportunity he's had to pull on the coveted jersey.

"I thought my rep footy was all over. It is great to have an opportunity to play with a lot of these blokes again," he said.

"It is an opportunity to play with guys like Karmichael Hunt and Johnathan Thurston, players who over the next 10 years are going to thrill everyone. I can't wait to play with them.

"I don't know (what has been the highlight). The highlight has just been getting here and playing here and all the tours I have been on.

"Hopefully Friday night can be a great game with Australia again getting the dominance back at Test level."

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