Broncos bracing for one more magic act from JT
WAYNE Bennett declared Johnathan Thurston as influential as Brisbane legend Allan Langer, while the Cowboys champion prepared to haunt the Broncos one last time in tonight's Queensland derby.
Bennett has not forgotten the devastation of the 2015 NRL grand final, when Thurston snapped the extra-time field goal, which broke Brisbane's hearts and snatched the Cowboys' maiden premiership.
Now the Broncos are bracing for one more magic act from the retiring Thurston, who will attempt to derail Brisbane's finals hopes in his 31st and final derby tonight at 1300 SMILES Stadium.
Three years after their epic affair in the 2015 decider, the Cowboys have crashed to equal last, but Thurston is vowing to go down swinging in the final month of his glittering NRL career.
Bennett watched Langer, Brisbane's greatest halfback, repeatedly haul the Broncos out of trouble in games and the master coach lauded Thurston as inspirational as Maroons icon "Alf''.
Asked if Thurston was in the same league as Langer, Bennett said: "Absolutely. Thurston is like Alf in that way.
"He is top-shelf in the way he inspires his teammates.
"Thurston and Alf are different players, they have different styles, but they are both wonderful players and they love the big moments.
"Alf got us out of trouble so many times and JT is the same."
Thurston has twice tormented Brisbane in sudden-death games in recent times.
There was the 2015 decider, when Thurston landed the 83rd minute one-pointer, which shattered Bennett's fairytale in his first season back at the Broncos.
The following year, Thurston again arrived as Brisbane's bogy man, setting up the extra-time try for Michael Morgan, which sealed a 26-20 finals win in Townsville and ended the Broncos' season.
Thurston has won 14 of 30 derbies against the Broncos since 2005, but tellingly, he has triumphed in seven of their last 11 meetings.
"Knowing JT, he will probably do it one last time against us," Bennett said.
"He will play against the Broncos the way he has always played - the best he can.
"There will be no exceptions in this game. He hasn't got another year left so this is it for him.
"He deserves every accolade the game gives him. I feel privileged to have seen such a great footballer and he is one guy you wished you coached.
"The Cowboys came back last week (in a fighting 26-20 loss to the Roosters) because Thurston drove it.
"He doesn't know how to quit that bloke. I'm just pleased he will never be defined by one bad season."
Cowboys co-captain Matt Scott said Thurston was determined to bring down the Broncos one more time.