Game of four halves
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.
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.