How do you improve on perfection?
North Queensland coach Paul Green reckons Johnathan Thurston has found a way ahead of the playmaker’s 250th NRL game for the Cowboys on Friday night at a sold-out Townsville.
Queensland coach Kevin Walters will run the rule over his State of Origin contenders when reigning premiers North Queensland host ladder leaders Brisbane before naming his first team next week.
But Green reckons all eyes should be on milestone man Thurston in the NRL grand final re-match.
Ten years after making his North Queensland debut against Brisbane, Thurston will run out against the same opposition as just the second Cowboy to crack the 250-game barrier.
The usually reserved Green dipped his hat to Thurston, saying the four-time Dally M Medallist had achieved something special during his Cowboys’ tenure.
The man considered the world’s greatest player had somehow found a way to get better each year, he said.
“He is probably learning how to step back in games and manage them better, to control them,” Green said of how Thurston had evolved.
“We never do make it about any individuals but 250 games for a club is a huge achievement – particularly playing at his level.
“But he is the sort of bloke who will go out of his way to make sure it is not about him.”
Thurston tried not to get sentimental despite trailing only club legend Matt Bowen (270) in games played for the Cowboys.
“This club means a lot. It will be a proud occasion,” he said.
“I arrived at the club as a kid, really.
“The club has been a big part of my life.”
One of the players hoping to impress Walters, Cowboys back-rower Gavin Cooper, did his best to give an insight into Thurston’s genius.
“He sees the game in slow motion – I think that is the best way to explain,” he said.
“He gets frustrated when he misses little opportunities but that’s because he sees things that other people don’t.
“He sees the game like no one else.”
* North Queensland have won five of their past six home games against Brisbane
* The Cowboys have the league’s best home record since 2014, winning 14 of 16 games including the past seven
* This season, North Queensland are equal leaders with Cronulla in tries scored (47), second in points scored (almost 28 per game) and lead the league in run metres (1539m per game)
* This year, Brisbane have conceded the fewest points (11.7 per game), least tries (1.9 per game) and the second-fewest line breaks (2.5 per game)