NRL premiership contenders be warned.
Johnathan Thurston says he’s never had it so good, describing North Queensland’s coaching staff as the best he’s played under and the 2015 Cowboys as the most well-balanced team he’s played in.
As the red-hot Cowboys prepare for a run home that will truly test their title credentials, their superstar skipper believes the Townsville-based club has never been better placed for a shot at the ultimate success.
That begins with the playmaking nucleus of five eighth Michael Morgan, fullback Lachlan Coote and hooker Jake Granville, who are all in career-best form and have taken substantial pressure off halfback Thurston this year, restoring a sense of calmness to a Cowboys side previously guilty of rushing their attack.
But Thurston also tips his cap to coach Paul Green’s assistants John Cartwright, David Furner and Jason Demetriou, who together have meticulously plotted what is already the equal-most successful season in club history.
“Across the board this is probably the best balanced team I’ve been a part of,” Thurston told AAP on Tuesday.
“Cootey and Morgo and Jakey are starting to find their feet, they’re really starting to control games and that comes off the back off everyone else knowing their role and doing it.
“(And) it’s probably the best coaching staff I’ve been a part in. The club’s just in a really good position.
“I do feel pretty spoiled.”
Thurston’s teammates are seeing the flow-on effect to his own game, with the Queensland and Kangaroos halfback in scintillating touch and currently the short-priced favourite to claim a fourth Dally M Player of the Year medal.
“Everyone’s saying how well he’s playing and I agree. I’ve never seen him like this,” said Cowboys prop James Tamou.
Thurston said he has never been in such good physical shape at this late stage of an NRL season.
The 32-year-old has been carefully managed over the last 18 months, having been sent for shoulder surgery during last year’s Four Nations and given a recent spell to freshen himself up for the back end of the season.
The Cowboys are second on the NRL ladder with 15 wins out of their last 16, but face a tough run home with games against the in-form Cronulla (away) premiers South Sydney (home), New Zealand (away) and Melbourne (away) to come.
“Normally we’re chasing our tails at this time of the year, the pressure’s on, we’re normally sitting outside the eight or on the cusp and we’ve had to win seven or eight games or something ridiculous to scrape in,” Thurston said.
“Mentally and physically that takes its toll on you but we’ve put ourselves in a really good spot.”