NSW coach Laurie Daley has leapt to the defence of Queensland five-eighth Johnathan Thurston after questions were raised about his defensive qualities.
Under-fire Queensland five-eighth Johnathan Thurston has found an unlikely ally in NSW coach Laurie Daley.
The reigning Golden Boot winner has been uncharacteristically subdued in this year’s State of Origin series as NSW saw off the Maroons for the first time since 2005.
Thurston missed 11 tackles in the two encounters played so far. Last week he was accused of losing control by North Queensland teammate James Tamou late in game two when he became involved in a stand-off with opposite number Josh Reynolds and was placed on report.
The 30-year-old Test star will make his 30th consecutive appearance in a Maroons jersey and Daley, an outstanding playmaker in his own right during an illustrious career, believes criticism aimed at him has been unfair.
“He’s one of the world’s best ever players and he’s proven that time and time again,” Daley said.
“He’s a wonderful player … a legend of our game and someone who deserves respect.”
Daley worked with Thurston in his spell as coach of the Indigenous All Stars and said he’s wary of a backlash.
“The criticism he’s received has been unfair. He’s a champion and he’ll respond in a positive manner on Wednesday night and that’s something we have to guard against.
“We’ve seen all the great players at some stage in their careers have off nights.
“But what he does for this Queensland team over time has been phenomenal and without him they may not have won some of the clashes against NSW.”
“Some of the things said about him this year have been unjust.”