Thurston needs protection, Meninga says

Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga has renewed calls for superstar playmaker Johnathan Thurston to be offered better protection by referees.

Thurston was collared early in a high tackle by Kiwis enforcer Jared Waerea-Hargreaves in Australia’s 26-6 in Perth on Saturday.

The Australian five-eighth was smashed soon after in a borderline tackle by Martin Taupau.

North Queensland coach Paul Green has been at pains to point out questionable tactics used in targeting his premiership-winning pivot.

And Meninga has brought the issue to a head again ahead of the Four Nations starting later this month.

“He is the best player in the game and he is always going to have a target on him,” Meninga said.

“Every game he plays he knows he is going to cop it left, right and centre in club footy, Origin or Test footy but he just gets up.

“That’s why he is such a champion player.

“More than anything else he is such a tough player.”

Former Queensland coach Meninga did question the legality, or otherwise, of tactics opposition sides employed to shut down Thurston.

“As long as it is within the legitimate rules of the game,” he said.

“I think Jared’s tackle should have been put on report.

“He is OK, JT, but it has to be within the rules.

“He is as tough and resilient as they come.”

Skipper Cameron Smith said the Kangaroos were moving in the right direction under Meninga.

Their 26-6 win, followed up a 16-0 defeat of the Kiwis in Newcastle in March in Meninga’s first match in charge.

“We have set a standard now, we don’t want to go back on,” Smith said.

“We have made two good steps forward.

“We were better than we were in Newcastle and now we have to continue to build on that.”

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