Thurston better than Johns, says Cooper

Who is rugby league’s greatest ever halfback – Andrew Johns or Johnathan Thurston?

It is the question on everyone’s lips in the lead-up to Thurston’s 250th NRL match this weekend.

But ask his North Queensland teammate Gavin Cooper and he’ll tell you the debate is already settled.

“I’m pretty biased,” said Cooper.

“I know Andrew Johns had skills and wanted to win. Andrew Johns is definitely the one for now, but once JT hangs the boots up I think everyone will agree that he has passed him.”

Thurston will at least definitively pass Johns – who retired on 249 NRL games – in one category this weekend when he lines up against the New Zealand Warriors on Saturday night.

But with each passing week it is getting harder and harder to argue against the Cowboys superstar.

“He’s awesome to watch,” said Cowboys strike weapon Antonio Winterstein.

“You hardly (notice) him when you’re on the field but in the video sessions, you really see how much time he has on the ball and how smart he is.

“The decisions he makes on the spot are first-class and that’s why he is the best player in the world.”

The 31-year-old Thurston has almost single-handedly picked North Queensland up from their early-season funk, stringing together three man-of-the-match performances to go with a three-match NRL winning streak.

The only thing missing from Thurston’s extensive list of achievements in rugby league is a premiership with the Cowboys.

A month ago that seemed a far-fetched proposition but last week’s away win over premiers South Sydney – again, steered by Thurston – has brought even that back into the realms of possibility.

“I think we’re having a little tribute to JT every week these days, but if we keep winning, I’m happy to give him (another one) next week,” Cooper said.

Curiously, Cooper said Thurston’s milestone game has yet to be addressed inside the four walls of the Townsville-based club.

“I think we might leave that one under the radar,” he said.

“We’ll talk about that after the game – we’ll celebrate with him, hopefully.”

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