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Meninga puts onus on Thurston teammates

By Laine Clark 10/04/2009 04:05:16 PM Comments (0)

Queensland coach Mal Meninga has put the heat on Johnathan Thurston's Cowboys teammates, saying they should "step up" and help the halfback as he battles for form in the Origin countdown.

A lot of pre-match hype has centred on Thurston's battle with returning Gold Coast No.7 Scott Prince going into their NRL clash at Dairy Farmers Stadium in Townsville on Saturday night.

But Meninga said it was "ridiculous" to use the game as a Queensland selection gauge ahead of the Origin series opener at Melbourne in June.

He said it was not fair to put so much pressure on Prince in his first game back from a two week layoff with a hamstring injury.

And Meninga put the onus on Thurston's teammates - rather than the classy Cowboys captain - to perform in their round four clash.

The Maroons legend pointed the finger at five-eighth Travis Burns, fullback Matt Bowen and the Cowboys' "lacklustre" forward pack.

"I think the other players around him have to step up," Meninga told AAP.

"I think their forwards have been fairly lacklustre the last few weeks.

"His halves partner (Burns) needs to start stepping up a bit more, take the pressure off JT (Thurston).

"Everything is focussed around JT, where he is playing and what role he plays.

"(Cowboys coach) Neil (Henry) might be adjusting his role, but I don't think the players around him (Thurston) are helping him at all."

Maroons hopeful Bowen, in particular, got a not so subtle assessment from Meninga.

"I think Matt can offer a lot more to his footy side. He wouldn't be happy I am sure with his performances," he said.

Thurston is the first to admit he is yet to adjust to Henry's new "quality not quantity" game plan for his prized halfback this season.

Under Henry's plan, Thurston's involvement is largely limited to the team's left hand attack in a bid to place greater ownership on others and ensure the Cowboys are not so predictable.

But Thurston has appeared frustrated that he can't fully stamp his own mark on the game while the team has slid to successive losses and a disappointing 1-3 season start for the star-studded Cowboys.

"Nothing is further from my mind (than chasing Origin selection)," Thurston told reporters in Townsville after their gut-wrenching last round loss in Canberra.

"The way I've been playing, the Cowboys have to be the focus.

"We're only one from four and it could be one from five."

However, Meninga could not fault Thurston despite his inconsistent early form.

"When I see JT I see how competitive he is. He is in there the whole 80 minutes trying his butt off," he said.

"JT is doing his utmost. You can't question his contribution to the team.

"And besides, he will play a different role at Origin level."

It seems Meninga is the only person not reading too much into the Prince-Thurston duel on Saturday night.

"I'll be watching it on TV but I won't be taking too much out of the game in terms of selection," he said.

"It's all about form over a series of weeks, it's about past performances as well.

"They are both very, very talented players and instrumental in their team's performance.

"But it's ridiculous to actually contemplate that (Maroons halfback selection)."

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