I have long thought of Johnathon Thurston as one of the most overrated players in the game. I'm not saying he isn't a good player but that he certainly isn't the greatest. For all the plaudits and automatic representative selections he receives and the general acceptance that it should be this way, anyone would think that he was no doubt in the top two or three players in the game. But I just can't understand how others don't see what I see when watching the Cowboys. Sometimes Thurston can be brilliant. Especially when Matt Bowen is brilliant. But at other times he looks no better than the likes of Brett Finch. Take for example last week against the Rabbitohs. The Rabbitohs who had not won a game until that point, but nevertheless came to play. Surely a champion of the calibre that Thurston is put into by the media, the Footy Show, and Queenslanders could snuff out this cheeky resistance from the favourites for the wooden spoon. Not quite. There are a lot of matches that have ended in a similar fashion for the Cowboys over the last year or so. A match that is there to be won, just waiting for the inevitable brilliance of that star player who'll single handedly finish the job...but the heads are down when the siren goes. Sure some blame must go to the Cowboys forwards lumbering around late in matches. But ultimately, in close matches, the playmaker in a side should be able to step up, especially when playing against a struggling side. Maybe the problem was exacerbated by Matt Bowen playing through injury. It's hard not to notice that when Bowen is missing or down on form that Thurston's form is subsequently affected. Another well documented problem area is his defense. He drops off a lot of tackles, which is probably the case with most halves in all fairness, but not to the extent that led Mat Rogers to comment that Thurston was a liability in the defensive line. I have also observed his frustration and often disrespect to teammates. I guess it shows his competitiveness but it often looks bad on TV. When a play breaks down he is quick to berate the players around him and point the finger. Thurston looks great playing for QLD or Australia but most halves do when surrounded by such talent. A champion player brings out the best in those around him and I'm not sure that Thurston is able to do this often at club level. The NSW selectors would be thrilled to have him as one of their halfback options given the state of play there but I just don't see why this guy is so hyped up.
Well I 've needed to get that off my chest for some time. Now we can turn our attention to tonight's Centenary Test. After Thurston injured his ankle at training yesterday Cooper Cronk has been called in as the standby. While Cronk certainly won't be out of place and has been picked by selectors specifically because of his combinations with Inglis, Folau and Slater and also with Bird in the Test vs NZ last year, it's a shame that Scott Prince has missed out. He is undoubtedly the form halfback in the NRL this season and the Titans position on the ladder is reflected by this. Anyway, no matter who plays it will be great to see this backline in action and we can only hope that Wayne Bennett has been able to teach the Kiwis enough to keep Test footy alive.