Johnathan Thurston is chaired off after Game 3. Picture: Brett Costello
Johnathan Thurston is chaired off after Game 3. Picture: Brett Costello

Thurston back to haunt the Blues

JOHNATHAN Thurston will be back to haunt the Blues this year.

The Courier-Mail can reveal Thurston is set to join Kevin Walters' Queensland coaching staff for the State of Origin series.

The champion Cowboys halfback has retired from representing the Maroons, following 37 matches and 11 series wins, to commit to North Queensland in his final NRL season.

Thurston exited the Origin arena as a hero last year, a series which was also the last for 22-game halfback Cooper Cronk.

However Thurston will be offered the chance to be back wearing Maroon this year in a consultancy role for coach Walters, much like Billy Slater during the 2016 series.

Ahead of his return to the field tonight following a 241-day absence, Thurston confirmed he would take up the position if it did not affect his Cowboys commitments.

"Certainly, if Kevvie asks me to do that," he said.

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Johnathan Thurston is chaired off after the 2017 series. Picture: Brett Costello
Johnathan Thurston is chaired off after the 2017 series. Picture: Brett Costello

"Kevvie rings me for advice throughout the season anyway. Whenever he calls I always answer and give him my honest opinion on what he's asking.

"It would depend on the Cowboys (allowing me to join the Queensland camp).

"(Coaching) does interest me but I've got no desire to be a (head) coach at this stage of my life."

Slater played a hands-on role in the Maroons set up during Queensland's 2016 series victory while he was sidelined with a shoulder injury.

Thurston kept last year's series alive for Queensland with a clutch sideline conversion despite carrying a season-ending shoulder injury which ended his Origin career prematurely and saw him miss the decider.

The 34-year-old joined Camp Maroon briefly in the lead-up to the decider, but his influence will be much stronger this year if he spends more time coaching on the training paddock.

Thurston has an agreement with the Cowboys to focus solely on North Queensland's 2018 premiership campaign, prompting his retirement from representative football.

Johnathan Thurston has quit Origin to focus on the Cowboys. PICTURE: ANNA ROGERS
Johnathan Thurston has quit Origin to focus on the Cowboys. PICTURE: ANNA ROGERS

But the Cowboys have a favourable draw throughout the Origin period, paving the way for Thurston to be involved in Maroons camps without disrupting his North Queensland commitments.

Walters, entering his third series as coach, confirmed he would look to bring Thurston in.

"Certainly, particularly from a mentoring and coaching point of view," he said.

"He was great last year for us. If you can't have him on the field we can at least get him involved in some capacity.

"We will have some younger halves coming through, whoever that's going to be, and he will be a great source of information and mentoring for them.

"The only trouble we've got is he will be playing club football. The Cowboys have games through that period.

"But we will be using him, for sure. He is a great fella and is all about the team and Queensland. He is also a winner and it's always good to have those sort of guys around."

Cronk, now at the Sydney Roosters, could also join the Maroons camp at some time throughout the series to help usher in a new halves combination.

Cooper Cronk and Johnathan Thurston during a Queensland training session.
Cooper Cronk and Johnathan Thurston during a Queensland training session.

Walters, who has appointed former Maroons centre Josh Hannay as an assistant, said having current players involved in the coaching set up was an advantage.

"Because they are current players they are really up to speed with what's going on on the field," he said.

"That was the beauty of having Billy.

"If we can use (Thurston) in any capacity then we will be, that's for sure."

Thurston will make one of his final playing appearances at Suncorp Stadium next Friday for a testimonial match with Maroons skipper Cameron Smith.

His only other guaranteed match in Brisbane will be North Queensland's Round 2 clash against the Broncos.



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