The thought of playing next week’s State of Origin opener without Cooper Cronk does not faze Queensland half Johnathan Thurston – but it should.
The Maroons have never won without Cronk since he inherited the No.7 jersey in 2012 and are hoping his powers of recovery kick in for a third straight year ahead of Wednesday night’s Origin opener in Sydney.
Cronk rolled his ankle at training on Friday.
Thurston admits Cronk’s injury will be a disruption but has backed his halves partner to be given until the last minute to prove his fitness for Origin I.
If not, Thurston believes his Cowboys teammate Michael Morgan will provide the perfect halves fit with Daly Cherry-Evans set to fill the bench utility role.
“We will be fine if Cooper is not there, but no doubt he is an important player,” Thurston said on Saturday.
“I am not sure what our success rate without him is but I am sure it is not too good.”
He’s not wrong.
Of the last three Origin games the Maroons have lost he didn’t play in two and broke his arm in the other.
The Melbourne playmaker broke his arm in game one in 2014 and didn’t play in game two, when the Blues finally ended eight seasons of Queensland dominance.
Cronk didn’t play in NSW’s win at the MCG in game two last year either due to injury.
Thurston is not giving up on Cronk just yet, and rightly so.
Cronk defied the experts when he returned early from a broken wrist to play game three in 2014, sparking a 32-8 win.
Last year he also missed Origin II, this time due to knee surgery.
He again proved the specialists wrong when he launched a game three comeback, chiming into a record 52-6 series-clinching triumph.
Queensland doctor Matt Hislop said precautionary scans on Cronk’s ankle injury were encouraging and it was hoped aggressive treatment would ensure the halfback was ready to play NSW.
“The scans have come back and they have been pretty positive but we will just put him in cotton wool for the next few days,” Thurston said.
“He should be right to roll.
“It’s a bit disruptive but we will have to deal with it.
“If he (Morgan) is called upon to play in the No.6 he’s had success there, he will do a job for us.”
Thurston admitted his role would dramatically change if Cronk was ruled out but was up for it.
“I would have to take on the role more of getting the boys around the park,” he said.
“Morgo is not accustomed to doing that at club or this level.
“(Captain Cameron Smith) Smithy and I will take the reins along with Darbs (fullback Darius Boyd) in getting the boys around the park.”
Meanwhile, Thurston said he was recovering well from his hip complaint suffered in last week’s NRL win over Brisbane and would begin contact work on Sunday.
Queensland fly out for Sydney on Monday.