He may be plotting Paul Gallen’s NRL downfall but Johnathan Thurston says there are no longer any hard feelings in the wake of their State of Origin feud.
North Queensland playmaker Thurston will again face off with the Cronulla captain in Friday night’s NRL preliminary final at Allianz Stadium.
However, the pair appear to have buried their Origin hatchet in what would be a relief for Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga ahead of the end of season Four Nations.
Thurston said he didn’t have any lingering issues with Gallen and even sung the Sharks lock’s praises as they prepare to lock horns in the grand final qualifier.
A war of words erupted between the pair after Queensland half Thurston dismissed Gallen as “disrespectful” when the NSW skipper led his team off the field during Maroons captain Cameron Smith’s victory speech in July.
Two months later and Thurston has a very different take on the Cronulla captain.
“I have played a lot of football alongside the G-Train (Gallen),” he said.
“I know what he brings to the team, what sort of character he is away from the football field.
“If you are playing footy you want him in your team.”
No hard feelings, then?
“We’ve all moved on from that,” Thurston said.
“And this is Cronulla v Cowboys, not State of Origin.”
Thurston’s stance avoids a potentially toxic Four Nations campaign by a Kangaroos squad expected to feature the pair.
Gallen is still in Thurston’s sights – North Queensland will look to keep their title defence on track with victory on Friday night.
That will be easier said than done.
Little has separated the teams this season – North Queensland beat Cronulla 20-14 in round one and the Sharks triumphed 13-10 in round 14.
They have split their past eight games 4-4.
“We are both defensively strong, both teams don’t leak too many points so they are hard to come by – that’s all I can put it down to,” Thurston said of their miserly rivalry.
“It shows that opportunities are few and far between in finals – you have to take them.”