Streak has prepared NQ for defence: JT

No one has won back-to-back titles in 23 years.

But North Queensland co-captain Johnathan Thurston can feel a sense of deja vu ahead of the Cowboys’ NRL defence this season.

Thurston knows his side will become the hunted each week this year after snapping a 20-year drought and claiming their maiden title in 2015.

They are attempting to become the first team to claim consecutive titles since Brisbane (1992-93).

But Thurston has no fears, saying it will be similar to when they became the team everyone wanted to beat during their club record 11-game winning run last year.

Thurston said it was the perfect preparation for a year in which they will wear a target on their heads week in, week out.

“It was similar to last year when we went on that streak,” Thurston told reporters.

“When we got to six, seven, eight, nine (wins) teams were starting to get up to be the team that ended our streak.

“It’s nothing that the boys haven’t seen before.

“And teams love playing against the Cowboys. It will be no different to us.”

The Cowboys’ remarkable run came to a shuddering halt in June against Cronulla – the team they face in their season opener in Townsville on Saturday night.

It was yet another memorable clash between the sides.

The Cowboys’ 20-18 finals loss in 2013 after a seventh tackle Sharks try is still a sore point up north.

And North Queensland don’t have to be told Cronulla will still be smarting from their 39-0 finals loss in Townsville last September.

The Queensland derby with Brisbane may still be considered the pinnacle, especially after their heart-stopping golden point NRL grand final last year.

But Thurston believed they were also building a classic rivalry with the Sharks.

“We are starting to get a real healthy rivalry between the two clubs,” he said.

“They dusted us twice throughout the year and that rivalry has built in the finals over the years.

“They will be disappointed the way that they exited last year.

“They will have full confidence, they recruited well – they are one of the smokies.”

Cowboys playmaker Michael Morgan believed a fired up Cronulla would be a great way to blow off the cobwebs and launch a title defence.

North Queensland are notoriously slow starters.

They went 0-3 last year before their record run set up their finals charge.

“After last year I have no doubt they will be up for it and trying to get one back on us,” Morgan said of Cronulla.

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