The Courier-Mail

Broncos have to rein in Thurston

- PETER BADEL

BRONCOS stars have warned Johnathan Thurston to brace for a fresh battering if the injured Cowboys champion dares to take on Brisbane’s defence on Saturday night.

Thurston, North Queensland’s chief shot-caller, is facing the ultimate test of courage as he prepares to put himself in the firing line in the Queensland finals blockbuste­r at Suncorp Stadium.

Thurston is renowned for his bravery in playmaking at the line but his lack of selfpreser­vation will be tested when he carries a groin injury into battle with the Broncos.

The Maroons ace last month appealed to NRL authoritie­s to protect the code’s playmakers after he was subjected to a series of late shots in the Cowboys’ loss to premiers South Sydney.

Scans cleared Thurston of major damage to his groin yesterday but the Broncos insist there will be nowhere for him to hide if the Cowboys halfback attempts to terrorise Brisbane’s defence.

“There will be heat on him,” veteran Broncos lock Corey Parker said.

“JT plays very deep into the line and he has to expect some form of contact.

“I’m not saying it will be illegal contact but if you play as deep as JT does, he will get some contact.

“Thurston is one of their main kickers and it’s an important part of the game – that could be the difference be- tween where you start and finish your set, depending on how much pressure you have on the kickers.

“A good example of that was Melbourne versus the Broncos last week.

“They pressured our kickers very well and we handed over some cheap ball.

“Every team is doing it (targeting kickers), so it’s a matter of putting in a defence mechanism so your halves can get a good kick away.”

Thurston’s repeated willingnes­s to straighten the attack and impose himself on defensive lines has delivered significan­t rewards this season.

He leads the NRL for most try assists (28) and line-break assists (27), and is the raging favourite to clinch a record fourth Dally M Medal this month.

But the Broncos pride themselves on their defensive discipline in the middle third and will not tolerate Thurston running riot in their biggest game of the season thus far.

Broncos enforcer Adam Blair is wary of the damage Thurston will inflict if Brisbane’s forwards give him the latitude to ignite the Cowboys’ backline.

“He’s a world-class player and there will be pressure from everyone on him,” he said.

“That’s our job and if you let Thurston play with time, he can do anything.

“He has that much magic up his sleeve that whatever he does comes off normally.

“We have to control the middle of the field.”

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