Queensland captain Cameron Smith has warned NSW they should be wary of a wounded Johnathan Thurston – not Daly Cherry-Evans – in Origin II.
Forget injured Queensland halfback Daly Cherry-Evans.
It seems NSW should be wary of wounded Maroons pivot Johnathan Thurston in Wednesday night’s State of Origin game two in Sydney.
Queensland captain Cameron Smith said potential matchwinner Cherry-Evans (knee) would be given until the last minute to prove his fitness after admitting it would be a “big ask” for understudy Ben Hunt to make his Origin debut in a must-win clash.
However, the threat Cherry-Evans poses if fit may pale in comparison to what Thurston has planned judging by Smith’s assessment of the disgruntled Maroons playmaker at training.
Thurston was arguably hurting the most after NSW’s 12-8 game one win in Brisbane after successfully being targeted in defence by Jarryd Hayne and missing six tackles – two of them leading to the Blues’ only two tries.
And Hayne will again have Thurston in his sights after statistics revealed the Queensland No.6 had missed a total of 16 tackles in three games against the 100kg fullback, including the NRL.
Not that Thurston had to be told.
The North Queensland Cowboys five-eighth revealed post match he was filthy with his game one performance that was compounded by a 0-2 goalkicking record.
Smith said he did not believe Thurston had a bad game but sensed something ominous brewing for NSW.
“He’s certainly been very focused for this game, very vocal at training,” Smith warned.
“He’s a champion and I will never knock a champion.
“I don’t think I have seen him play a bad game.
“He might have been quiet by his standards in game one but I don’t think he played all that bad.
“But I have no doubt he will bounce back and have one of his best games on Wednesday night.”
Smith said Thurston had taken Hunt under his wing as they sweat on the last-minute fitness call on Cherry-Evans.
If Cherry-Evans is passed fit, Queensland will use a No.7 who has never trained as Maroons halfback for a game they must win to keep their quest of nine straight Origin series alive.
If Cherry-Evans is cut, Hunt will be asked to don the Maroons No.7 shirt after just 13 games as Broncos halfback.
“It’s a big ask,” Smith said of Hunt stepping up.
“But we have all been there before, we have all had to debut at some stage.
“His form for the Broncos has been outstanding this year.
“And from what I have seen at training he is a confident kid – and that is what you need from a seven.
“He will be able to handle it if Cherry-Evans doesn’t play.”