Thurston backs Benji for league's Dally M - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Thurston backs Benji for league's Dally M

Laine Clark 31/08/2011 04:44:57 PM Comments (0)

If Johnathan Thurston was a betting man, he would lay some cold hard cash down on Wests Tigers' Benji Marshall to upstage him for the Dally M Medal.

But it is the man dubbed the "next Benji Marshall" who is occupying his thoughts at the moment - Warriors' playmaker Shaun Johnson.

Still, Thurston needed some reminding of the Kiwi teenager's name ahead of their crunch NRL clash in Auckland on Saturday night.

The Warriors' James Maloney and Johnson are not the most high-profile NRL halves combination.

However, Thurston is more than wary of the low-key pair as both teams vie for a top-four finish this weekend - that is, once he gets Johnson's name right.

"Maloney is controlling everything there and young Shauny Johnson, I think it is, he is certainly an exciting talent and got a big future ahead of him," Thurston said.

"He's got speed to burn and good vision so, if there are any chinks in our line, they will certainly exploit it."

After overcoming a stomach bug, Thurston is once again the key for the Cowboys ahead of their regular-season finale which could catapult them to fourth spot - or drop them to as low as seventh.

An early favourite to collect a record-equalling third Dally M medal this year, Thurston wasn't so sure after missing five weeks with a knee injury.

Indeed, Thurston reckoned he needed to lift as the Cowboys eyed a rare finals berth.

"It is hard to say (who is Dally M favourite) - if I was putting money on it, I would say Benji Marshall will win it," Thurston said.

"(But) I know I need to be better for the team.

"In some cases I have and I know, in some areas, I need to be better.

"So I'm working on those areas to make sure that we're moving forward as a club and I'm doing everything I can to play good footy."

Still Thurston was counting his blessings after the Cowboys' charge for a home final looked out of reach when he watched Queensland seal a sixth straight State of Origin series in July from a wheelchair.

"I am pretty lucky. The training staff have worked really hard on my knee to get me back," Thurston said.

"The confidence is there now and I know I have a job to do and need to do it well."

Not even a bout of gastro - which affected a third of the team last week - could curb his enthusiasm ahead of the Warriors clash.

Then again, cynics could argue the Cowboys' previous form - in which they narrowly missed the wooden spoon in two of the past three seasons - was enough to turn most stomachs.

"Compared to the last couple of years, where we are sitting is a huge achievement for the club," Thurston said.

"But we know it is not over yet.

"And it doesn't get much tougher than a road trip to Auckland.

"We have to turn up with the right attitude, otherwise they will put 50 on us."

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