State of Origin ironman Johnathan Thurston has been backed by Queensland to play a remarkable 34th straight game despite being restricted to light training duties.
The playmaker raised eyebrows on Thursday when he avoided contact work at the Maroons’ first official training session under new coach Kevin Walters on the Gold Coast.
He suffered a corked hip from a big hit by Josh McGuire on Friday night before kicking the match-winning field goal in North Queensland’s stunning 19-18 NRL victory over Brisbane.
But coaching assistant Billy Slater allayed fears over Thurston, who completed the rest of the session’s drills before riding a bike back to their camp accommodation.
“Obviously he’s a little bit restricted, but we are a long way from game time,” said Slater, who was invited into the camp as he recovers from a shoulder injury.
“And the fact that he is out on the field at this time of the preparation is a good sign.”
Slater – who confirmed he would not consider an NRL comeback until 2017 – said it would be hard to stop Thurston playing.
“I don’t think we will have a problem with JT,” he said.
“He’s experienced in this field and I am sure come game time next week he will be in tip-top shape.”
Queensland centre Greg Inglis knows about Thurston’s recuperative powers.
“It’s just a bruise. He’ll get over it,” Inglis said.
“It’s JT. He’s come back from worse things than that.
“I have been in camps where he has been in hospital the day of the game and he has got man of the match.”
Inglis said there were no awkward moments when Thurston was reunited with prop McGuire in the Maroons camp.
“Him and Moose (McGuire) are talking again now,” Inglis laughed.
Rookie winger Corey Oates was spotted arriving at training with a heart monitor used as a precaution after missing the final half of Brisbane’s NRL loss to North Queensland due to dizzy spells and an irregular heartbeat.
“He took it off second day of camp (Tuesday), the boys were paying him out – he’s fine,” Inglis said.
He said some things had changed under Walters, who takes over from the legendary Mal Meninga, but one important aspect remained the same.
“Now that Kevvie has stepped up to the plate, little things have changed in the scheduling here and there,” he said.
“But as far as showing the Queensland passion, not too much has changed.”