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Thurston 'buzzing' before Origin II

10/06/2008 08:01:14 PM Comments (0)

Queensland coach Mal Meninga is banking on Johnathan Thurston's amazing competitive streak to draw the best out of him in Wednesday night's Origin collision with NSW.

Thurston, who'll shift to five-eighth to accommodate the late inclusion of Titans halfback Scott Prince, is under immense pressure to discover the Midas touch which has deserted him following twin shoulder reconstructions during the off-season.

NSW did a great job keeping Thurston quiet in Sydney last month.

But that may have had more to do with what they did up front and on dummy half Cameron Smith, restricting his opportunities to attack.

The dual Dally M winner has been playing without much confidence, with his NRL club North Queensland losing their last six games.

There were reports that Queensland selectors debated his retention for Origin II.

Meninga has forecast Thurston was ready to hit back at his critics and the Blues on Wednesday with some of the flashy moves which had him contesting the title of rugby league's best player with Darren Lockyer last season.

With Lockyer a late withdrawal and centre Justin Hodges suspended, Queensland desperately need Thurston to fire.

Meninga believes he will.

"There's no doubt Johnathan was disappointed with the way he played (in Sydney)," said Meninga.

"He's one of the most competitive players I've been involved with both playing and coaching.

"I've got no doubt he's buzzing at the moment and looking forward to the match tomorrow night."

NSW know a player of Thurston's class will come good eventually.

Playing at a packed Suncorp Stadium in front of die-hard Queensland fans could be just what's needed for him to break the shackles.

"He hasn't played his best this season but there's no reason why he couldn't turn it around with a blinder and kick-start the rest of his season," warned Blues five-eighth Greg Bird.

Meninga ridiculed suggestions from NSW that Queensland would attempt to "hide" Prince in defence.

"That's such a silly statement to make," said Meninga, who also denied he would start Karmichael Hunt at five-eighth to absorb the early bruising and leave Prince on the bench.

"You can't hide players in Origin.

"He (Prince) knows they'll throw numbers at him and JT knows they'll throw numbers at him but they'll come up with the right options for sure."

Asked if Prince was a defensive weakness Meninga said: "No.

"He's been there and done that before but he hasn't been around for a while, so it's important he doesn't waste any nervous energy on the bench.

"We'll put him on the field from the start and get him into the game straight away."

Meninga said NSW halfback Peter Wallace would face his own examination after being given far too much space on his Blues debut.

"He played extremely well in the first game and it was a great debut behind a very dominant NSW side," said Meninga.

"We allowed them to do that.

"We won't be going out to take Peter Wallace out of the game, we'll be going out to make sure whatever we're confronted with we handle.

"If we handle their forwards well it's going to go a long way to nullifying him."

Meninga, who admitted to being one of the "rednecks" Blues forward Willie Mason took a dig at last week, was counting on 50,000 other rednecks to make life uncomfortable for the Blues tomorrow night.

"I'm a redneck and they do make a difference because this is a great stadium," he said.

"It's our ground and we'll come ready to protect it."

Queensland named Cowboys forward Carl Webb as their 18th man.

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