Game of four halves

Townsville Bulletin - - SPORT - PAUL CRAWLEY NRL ROUND 19

NOT many blokes can pick a fight with a Manly player and walk away from Brook­vale Oval alive. Johnathan Thurston will aim to be the ex­cep­tion tonight.

In what is shap­ing up as a cru­cial Mon­day night clash, the Cowboys’ su­per­star will go head- to- head with Manly’s $ 10 mil­lion man Daly Cher­ryE­vans amid spec­u­la­tion these two Queens­lan­ders aren’t ex­actly best of mates.

It fol­lows re­cent claims that Thurston played a role in Cherry- Evans’ dump­ing from the Queens­land Ori­gin squad for the se­ries de­cider.

The mail be­fore the game in Bris­bane was that Thurston was the key man be­hind the push for his Cowboys halves part­ner Michael Mor­gan to be se­lected ahead of Cher­ryE­vans, pre­vi­ously touted as a fu­ture Queens­land cap­tain.

NSW and Cronulla cap­tain Paul Gallen yesterday rated Manly the big­gest out­side threat to the top eight. Gallen said on Triple M that he con­sid­ered Manly the dark horse in the fi­nals race ahead of teams like St Ge­orge Illawarra.

Af­ter spend­ing most of the year stuck at the bot­tom of the NRL lad­der, Manly have won three out of their past four games and tonight will be chas­ing their third straight win for the first time this sea­son.

But from here they would re­al­is­ti­cally have to win at least six of their last eight games to have any fi­nals hope.

The sec­ond- placed boys have their own Cow­mo­tiv- ation tonight. A win will push them to 30 points and al­most cer­tainly a top- four fin­ish.

The other mo­ti­va­tion will be the bat­tles of the halves, Thurston and Mor­gan up against Cherry- Evans and Kieran Fo­ran.

Thurston went to ex­tra­or­di­nary lengths of ex­plain­ing why Cooper Cronk was so valu­able to the Queens­land team in a pre- match in­ter­view be­fore Ori­gin III and many read his com­ments as a veiled swipe that Cherry- Evans was not a team player.

Thurston said: “Coop is great at a lot of things out there but, play­ing be­side him, one of the things I have grown to ap- pre­ci­ate is his abil­ity to not just take charge of a game when he needs to, but also the way he knows when to step back and let other guys do their thing.

“There are a lot of great play­ers in this team and one of the strengths of the Queens­land team over the past 10 years has been the way we have been able to work to­gether and get ev­ery­one con­tribut­ing.

“We don’t rely on one bloke to win us the game. We’re at our best when we’re able to get ev­ery­one in­volved in the game – and I think at this level that’s what I have learnt is the job of your halves.

“It’s not

so much

about com­ing up with the in­cred­i­ble play, it’s about bring­ing the en­tire group to­gether.

“There is so much tal­ent in the teams in rep­re­sen­ta­tive football, what I learnt from ( for­mer cap­tain Dar­ren Lock­yer) es­pe­cially, is that our job is to try to get all the in­di­vid­ual tal­ent work­ing to­gether.”

There is no doubt Thurston and Cherry- Evans have strug­gled to gel to­gether for Queens­land.

And given Thurston’s freak­ish form at 32, and his stand­ing in the Ma­roons’ squad, he could prove a fu­ture road­block in re­spect to Cherry- Evans’ am­bi­tions to cap­tain his state and coun­try.

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