He might be widely regarded as one of the greatest ever but Queensland’s Johnathan Thurston admits he will have to change his ways in order to partner new halfback Daly Cherry-Evans.
Controversial Manly playmaker Cherry-Evans has been thrust upon Thurston as a halves partner ahead of June 17’s Origin II in Melbourne after the withdrawal of Cooper Cronk (knee).
Cherry-Evans has polarised fans after reneging on a four-year Gold Coast deal to remain at Manly, even earning boos from Suncorp Stadium fans last Friday in the Sea Eagles’ 44-10 NRL loss to Brisbane.
However, Thurston had no problem with chiming in with Cherry-Evans despite admitting Cronk’s departure meaning he has to throw his trusty Origin playbook out of the window.
“We’ll have to change it up,” Thurston said bluntly when asked about how Cronk’s injury altered his Origin II gameplan.
“Cooper is the organiser of the team so I’ll probably take that role now and direct the boys around the park.
“We haven’t really spoken about how we want to play yet, but we’ll do that over the next couple of days.
“(But) DCE plays on the right side anyway at club level, I play on the left, so defensively there’s no difference there.”
Cherry-Evans struggled the only other time he held the Maroons halfback reins in game two last year – a match NSW won to clinch their first series triumph in nine years.
But Thurston backed him to step up in Cronk’s absence, reminding the cynics that Cherry-Evans battled a knee injury in the lead-up to Origin II 2014.
“He knows the gameplan backwards,” Thurston said.
“We had a disruptive performance preparation last year with a few injuries and that, but everyone’s fit now and everyone will be able to train every session.
“That will be beneficial for him and I, but also the whole team.”
Thurston would not be drawn on Cherry-Evans’ Titans backflip.
“We’re here to talk about Queensland, not that. It’s done and dusted,” he said.
Thurston will play a record 32nd straight Origin on Wednesday night at the MCG, an incredible string of games that began on his debut in the 2005 series opener.
Thurston will overtake two of the great Origin five-eighths – Queensland’s Wally Lewis and NSW’s Brad Fittler (both 31 games).