Thurston backs Tonga as Maroons option - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Thurston backs Tonga as Maroons option

By Ed Jackson 12/06/2009 07:23:58 PM Comments (0)

North Queensland skipper Johnathan Thurston says teammate Willie Tonga's left-sided bias shouldn't prevent him winning a Queensland State of Origin berth.

Tonga is considered the frontrunner to replace the injured Justin Hodges in the Maroons line-up for the second Origin match in Sydney on June 24.

But Neil Henry, his coach at the Cowboys and Queensland's assistant coach, made the point last weekend that Tonga is a left-sided centre and his inclusion would force a potentially unsettling reshuffle to the Maroons backline.

Thurston however suggested Tonga's form warrants the selectors taking a gamble on the former Bulldog.

"If you look at the centres that we've played against and that he has marked, they've all been kept very quiet," the Maroons halfback said.

"He's a great defensive centre and his attack is up there as well. I'm sure he wouldn't have a problem switching from the left to right or you could probably switch GI (Greg Inglis) to the right and leave him at left.

"I think he's right up there in the mix."

Another player in the mix is veteran St George Illawarra winger Wendell Sailor, and with the Cowboys playing the Dragons this Sunday, Thurston expects the 34-year-old to have a big game.

"I'm sure he has been ringing the selectors," Thurston said.

"He has been playing really well, starts their sets very well from the back so we'll have to try and minimise his effect on the game."

Thurston himself is hoping for a big game after spending most of this week "scaling the walls" at home, quarantined for 72 hours after his contact with Origin teammate and swine flu victim Ben Hannant.

The playmaker said the enforced three-day break may prove a blessing in disguise as Origin and club commitments take their toll.

"I'm a little bit fresher in the legs, a little bit fresher in the head, after those days off," he said.

"I've just got to train now, turn up on Sunday and do the job."

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