Johnathan Thurston believes North Queensland have “turned the corner” after a dire start to the NRL season and are primed for the ultimate test against South Sydney.
Thurston’s latest five-star display, including having a hand or boot in all five of his side’s tries in a 30-10 dispatch of Penrith, lifted the Cowboys to the cusp of the top eight after they’d dropped their first three games in 2015.
The Cowboys, though, won’t be resting on their laurels as they prepare to take on the Rabbitohs at ANZ Stadium in their third straight Monday night fixture.
“It doesn’t get any bigger than coming up against the reigning premiers,” Thurston said.
“So that’ll be a good test for us to see where we’re at as a side. That’s the challenge for us.
“They’re a very big pack, they roll through that middle third and Issac Luke plays off the back of it.
“So we’ve got our hands full next week.”
So tight is the competition race that the Cowboys faced the prospect of dropping to last on the competition table had they lost to the Panthers.
“Look, it was a real poor start to the year but we’ve turned the corner, so to speak,” Thurston said.
“It’s very hard to get two points in this competition and if you’re only five per cent off, you’ll get dusted and that’s what happened to us in the first three weeks.
“We’ve been training really hard and working really hard at executing our game plan on the training paddock and that’s what we need to continue to do.
“It doesn’t get any bigger than next week.”
A serious knee injury to Souths playmaker Adam Reynolds has robbed fans and denied Thurston of a marquee head-to-head halfback showdown.
But Cowboys coach Paul Green will take any edge offered up as the Queenslanders aim to build on momentum gained from back-to-back wins over Melbourne and Penrith.
“After last week’s win, you could sense a little bit of the monkey off the back and I thought we brought some good confidence into this game,” Green said.
“It’s tough to come away with wins down here. Obviously they’re a good side.
“It was a tough win that will add a little bit of confidence, just as each loss takes confidence away.
“So for us it’s about trying to keep that momentum going.”