Nine years on, Johnathan Thurston can’t erase painful memories of North Queensland’s grand final loss to Wests Tigers.

Time, nine years in fact, hasn’t healed Johnathan Thurston’s wounds.

The North Queensland co-captain admits the Cowboys’ 2005 NRL grand final defeat to the Wests Tigers still haunts him, and will for the rest of his days.

“I prefer not to talk about it,” Thurston said on Wednesday. “It’s one we let slip. It still burns.

“It’s great to make a grand final but you don’t want to lose them because it haunts you for life.”

As much as Thurston tries not to think about the gut-wrenching 30-16 loss, the most painful of his career, any encounter with the Tigers brings back the bad memories.

It has this week as the resurgent Cowboys, aiming for their fourth straight win, face the Tigers on Saturday night in Townsville.

Thurston, who won a premiership with Canterbury in 2004, was just 22 back in 2005 and has never played in a decider since.

Robbie Farah was a 21-year-old hooker for the Tigers at the time and central to that victory.

Now Farah is in the middle of a firestorm at his besieged club with coach Mick Potter under immense pressure.

There’s little love lost between Thurston and Farah but the Queensland and Cowboys playmaker expects the drama will bring the best out of the Tigers.

“That’s what you do when you have your backs up against the wall. It seems to bring the best out of players,” he said.

“They have a good crop of young players that have really impressed this year and no doubt they will look at getting at doing a job on us.”

Thurston has returned to his signature best since switching back from No.6 to 7, resulting in their winning streak, and is lapping up the chance to be more influential in the middle of the field.

“I’m getting a few more touches on the ball and a bit closer to the ruck,” he said. “It’s a bit different to six where I’m out a bit wider and I was finding the outside defence could shut me down a lot easier.”