RUGBY LEAGUE: Brisbane are on red alert for North Queensland Aboriginal halfback Johnathan Thurston turning on his own show in Darren Lockyer’s history-making 350th NRL game.
Thurston this week denied pushing his comeback from a knee injury, suffered in State of Origin III more than a month ago, to play in Lockyer’s latest milestone match.
The Cowboys superstar warned the Broncos he’ll be going all out to spoil his Queensland and Australian captain’s party.
Lockyer will pass Terry Lamb and Steve Menzies’ record for most first grade games in Friday’s clash at Dairy Farmers Stadium which will have a major bearing on the top four.
Brisbane coach Anthony Griffin bristled at suggestions on Thursday that his side would catch Thurston “under-cooked”.
“No, I’m not thinking that and I know the players wouldn’t be either,” said Griffin.
“I don’t think JT is the type of player who’d put himself out there if he couldn’t do what he wanted to do.”
But Griffin stressed it was important his players didn’t overreact in their efforts to shut Thurston down.
“If you’re giving him the ball down your own end of the field, obviously the more chances he gets, the more chance he is of creating something,” he said.
“You have to respect him and work very hard on him and hope you can do a job on him.
“He digs right into you so you need your defensive line coming at him.
“He gets right into the line and very rarely comes up with an error, whether’s running the ball or passing the ball.
“His decision making is very good.”
The Cowboys have been boosted by the injury returns of both Thurston and inspirational co-captain Matt Scott but have lost hooker Aaron Payne, who fractured an eye socket in a heavy training collision on Tuesday.
Griffin conceded Payne’s replacement, the livewire James Segeyaro, was a dangerous prospect and a player Brisbane had done their homework on since Payne was injured.
“He’s scored a lot of tries and he’s very sharp and very strong out of dummy half and he hits hard,” said Griffin.
“Our marker defence is going to be important, not just on him but also on Matty Bowen and Thurston.
“We’ve got our systems and structures in defence and, no matter who you play, they have to be good and they have to be getting a little better each week at this time of the year.”
Brisbane will have to take on the Cowboys pack without Maroons prop Ben Hannant, who has been ruled out with hip injury.
Josh McGuire, who was outstanding in the second half against the Warriors running for 143 metres in 40 minutes, will take Hannant’s starting spot.
“Ben leaves a hole on paper because he is a rep player and because of what he’s done, so the job for us and Josh on Friday night is to make sure there is no hole there,” Griffin said.
Representative winger Jharal Yow Yeh is battling an ankle injury which prevented him training on Thursday and Griffin has left a final decision on whether he plays until game day.
A win would help Brisbane take a firm grip on third place with three games to follow before the finals.
It would also allow premiers St George Illawarra to leapfrog the Cowboys into fourth this weekend.
A Broncos loss would mean the Cowboys joining them on 32 points, while the Dragons could move to 31 with a win over the Sydney Roosters.