Pressure is on rookie Blues: Thurston - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Pressure is on rookie Blues: Thurston

By Melissa Woods 29/05/2009 05:52:12 PM Comments (0)

Queensland halfback Johnathan Thurston has questioned whether the rookie NSW playmakers will be able to step up to the massive occasion of State of Origin rugby league.

Blues selectors overhauled their squad for Wednesday night's Etihad Stadium opener in Melbourne in a bid to prevent a record fourth successive defeat.

There are seven rookies in the NSW squad with a measly six Origin caps amongst the key positions.

Fullback and skipper Kurt Gidley has four and halfback Peter Wallace has represented the Blues twice, while five-eighth Terry Campese and hooker Robbie Farah are debutants.

Thurston said that while NSW would be enthusiastic and excited, nerves could be their undoing.

"Everyone knows their games but whether in this type of arena, whether you can step up or not is another question," the North Queensland No.7 said.

"It's a big occasion. I remember my debut, I was a little scared, very nervous, using up a lot of nervous energy."

At that time, Thurston looked to Queensland coach Mal Meninga, a former Origin hero, and his halves partner Darren Lockyer, the Maroons skipper, for support.

"Mal has played a lot of Origin games and was very good when I made my debut," he said.

"In the second year, Locky was very calm and composed and in those types of situations. They're the blokes you need.

"Obviously, they're in a re-building phase and we'll try and exploit that."

NSW selectors also opted for players in form, rather than club combinations, with players from 12 different clubs in the 17-man squad.

While Lockyer missed last year's series following a knee reconstruction, he and Thurston have a long playing history both with Queensland and Australia.

"It's a bit like an old shoe. We've played a lot of footy together.

"Last year, he was out for the series so I'm looking forward to getting back in the arena with him."

Thurston said building such an effective combination took time - something the Blues have little of.

"It is tough. My first series with Locky we lost in `05.

"It's not as much time as you'd like but you just work on it and build over the three games."

However he was still wary of the individual capabilities of the Blues and said it was important to shut down the NSW forwards to stop the backs getting any time and space.

"They don't have much experience there but if their forwards can roll up the park for them, they've got good kicking games, the three or four of them.

"If we can restrict that and try and put them under a little bit of pressure, it will be interesting to see how they go."

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