Call it manipulation, call it communication, Johnathan Thurston is a clear admirer of Cameron Smith’s ability to deal with NRL referees.
As he prepares to lead North Queensland into a blockbuster NRL qualifying final on Saturday against Smith’s Melbourne, Thurston has hailed his State of Origin teammate as the best in the game at getting his message across to match officials.
Smith’s blow-up with referee Ashley Klein during the Storm’s shock round 25 loss to Brisbane aside, the wily skipper is renowned for his methodical conduct when it comes to referee-captain discussions.
Thurston says it’s something he’s definitely tried to take on board from playing alongside and against Smith.
“I’ve tried to. Smithy’s always been cool, calm, collected,” Thurston said.
“No matter what the scoreboard shows he doesn’t show too much emotion.
“Every referee’s different. They show the respect to the captains and you’ve just got to pick your times to talk to them.
“There’s no better person in the comp that does that than Smithy. If I get that opportunity I need to take it as well.”
Thurston has declared himself a certain starter for Saturday’s clash, despite a corked calf picked up late in last Saturday’s 32-16 win over Gold Coast in Townsville.
The playmaker is also backing prop Matt Scott to prove his fitness despite training separately from the team on Wednesday as he continues to recover from a broken finger.
“I haven’t spoken to him since he ran out there but he should be there,” Thurston said.
The Cowboys depart for Melbourne on Thursday and will have their final training session at AAMI Park on Friday.
Thurston’s men defeated the Storm at the venue in last year’s finals series but have been beaten twice by their opponents this season.
The Queensland and Australia star says there’s no doubt about the challenge that lies ahead.
“Travelling to Melbourne is always a big challenge. They’ve built a fortress down there,” he said.
“Defensively they’re strong, the best in competition.
“It’s the business end of the year and it’s a good challenge for us to see where we’re at both physically and mentally.”