Here we are.
We are just hours away from the second instalment of the State of Origin series.
Every sports fan should know the consequences for both sides if they are to lose tonight.
So who has more at stake?
If Mal Meninga and the Maroons fail to make Game III a decider, the chapter on their record-breaking, eight straight series wins comes to a close.
What’s more demoralising than eight straight defeats? Nine. If the series shifts back up to Suncorp tied at one apiece, it’s common knowledge that Queensland will be very difficult to beat.
If NSW manages to secure a victory tonight, something horrific will follow. Queensland fans alike will be left distraught and totally distressed. I’m afraid of what my brother might do. Not entirely due to the series defeat, but because the dribble that already comes out of Paul Kent’s mouth will worsen. He’ll dish out how the Blues’ conquest was greater, more dominant, and far more remarkable than any victory thus far in the Origin chronicle. I guarantee his whiney voice will have this on repeat: “You’re only as good as your last series”.
Nobody wants that.
To save humanity from Kent’s slobber, let’s all hope Queensland shows up.
For that to happen, one player must fire for the Maroons.
After Queensland and Rugby League legend Darren Lockyer retired, an unspoken torch was passed to JT.
Cameron Smith might lead the team out the tunnel, but Thurston is the go-to man. That judicious, iconic player who can alter a game from any position on the field.
JT is the only Queensland player that has featured in every single game since the Maroons began their domination in 2006.
2011 Game III in QLD (decider): QLD 34 NSW 24
Thurston produced an epic grubber to set up Inglis for the first try in Darren Lockyer’s last Origin game. That opened the floodgates for the Maroons. They won convincingly.
2012 Game III in QLD (decider): QLD 21 NSW 20.
JT dished out a try assist in the 19th minute, sending Darius Boyd over. Then from 25 metres out from his own line, the mercurial half broke the line after he got on the outside of Mitchell Pearce and fooled everyone with his trademark show-and-go. Thurston was tackled, but a couple of plays later he managed to cross the white line. Those heroics secured the last of his four man-of-the-match awards to date.
2013 Game II in QLD (must win for Queensland): QLD 26 NSW 6.
After being in hospital with a virus infection only hours earlier, JT dominated. In the 17th minute, a gorgeous double-pump froze the defence, allowing Boyd enough room to score in the corner. The faithful witnessed another Thurston special eight minutes after the break as he threw a pinpoint, double cut-out pass to Boyd who pushed the Maroons’ advantage to 18-0. Game over, series levelled.
2013 Game III in NSW (decider): NSW 10 QLD 12.
JT scored the first try after beating three NSW players, giving the Maroons an ideal start. Minutes later he pushed the lead to 8-0 thanks to opposing No.6 James Maloney conceding a penalty.
These are just a few examples in my recent memory of JT showing up at the right time for Queensland. Yeah, he has a great supporting cast, in fact maybe the best supporting cast in Origin history. But his relentless effort and contribution is the key ingredient in Queensland’s recipe for success.
Will the injury-stricken Maroons have enough gas in the tank? Will the Queensland physio break Justin Hodges’ and Stephen Larkham’s records for the most strapping tape ever used when he does Daly Cherry-Evans’ knee? How many donuts has David Taylor devoured this week? Will the untested partnership of Josh Dugan and Will Hopoate be exposed? Has Mal designed some plays to get Greg Inglis the FREAKING ball? Will Josh Reynolds attempt to break Brent Tate’s face again? Can we expect a punch? Will Allan Langer make another return?
I can’t answer any of them.
Will Johnathan Thurston fire?
Let’s hope so.
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