Thurston returns to guide Maroons
FIRST it was Billy Slater. Now it's Johnathan Thurston. Maroons coach Kevin Walters is bringing out all the big guns in his quest to bring the Origin shield back to Queensland.
While Slater, Thurston, Cooper Cronk and Cameron Smith have been lost to the Maroons in the past two seasons, Walters is determined to uphold the legacy that inspired Queensland's decade of Origin dominance.
Thurston was a welcome arrival at Camp Maroon on Friday, with the retired Cowboys playmaker joining Walters' army of marquee assistants ahead of the Origin opener this Wednesday night at Suncorp Stadium.
The 37-game Origin champion watched Maroons training at Davies Park with a keen eye as he stood beside Walters, Slater and Queensland greats Justin Hodges and Petero Civoniceva.
When the session ended, Thurston did one-on-one work with former Cowboys teammate Michael Morgan, who will play left centre in Origin I, before helping Maroons young gun Kalyn Ponga prepare for goalkicking duties.
Thurston was famed for his competitive fire and Maroons utility Moses Mbye said the current playing group has responded to 'JT's' presence at training.
"I idolised Thurston and to have him at training gives you a boost," Mbye said.
"He gave a few words of wisdom. He spoke to the guys about a few little things he is seeing at training and added a couple of things he wants to see us doing.
"His presence among the group is invaluable. I've always felt if you hang around successful people you become successful and having his aura around, he oozes success and demands quality of us.
"I had a chat to him after training and I was blown away by his humility. Because he is so humble, it is easy to forget how great he was.
"I know our guys have so much respect for him and what he did for the Maroons jumper ... it's been uplifting to have him in camp."
Thurston also stopped for a chat with halfback Daly Cherry-Evans. The duo played together in the halves during the 2015 Origin series and Cherry-Evans will skipper Queensland for the first time this Wednesday night.
Walters overhauled his ancillary staff this year to inject more contemporary legends and centre Will Chambers backed the move.
"They have given the younger guys a lot of confidence with tips here and there," Chambers said.
"Petero was a tough prop so he helps the young forwards out.
"JT is very thorough with how he presents and talks and even 'Hodgo' (Hodges) is great for the backs.
"There is a different vibe around the place, it has freshened things up."