Blues vs. Maroons: Johnathan Thurston Key in State of Origin Triumph

Tom Sunderland@@TomSunderland_Featured ColumnistJuly 17, 2013

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 25:  Johnathan Thurston smiles during the warm-up of a Queensland Maroons State of Origin media/training session at Suncorp Stadium on June 25, 2013 in Brisbane, Australia.  (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)
Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

A crusader to the Queensland cause for some time now, Johnathan Thurston was always going to play a crucial role in the Maroons’ 2013 State of Origin series and didn’t disappoint.

The only player to accomplish the feat, Thurston has now featured in 27 consecutive State of Origin matches, dating back to State of Origin I—the first game of the 2005 series. He has not failed to feature in any of the annual meetings since.

On Wednesday, the seasoned veteran took a leading hand in making sure the tide was turned in his side’s favour by adding the first points to the board.

New South Wales failed to kick into gear early on and were swiftly punished by Thurston, who ducked his way under the challenges of the Blues forwards to touch down next to the posts before adding the extras with his boot.

Even though kicking from the tee is far from the most important aspect of the sport, having that assured presence for the set-piece is all the more calming for a side and is somewhere Thurston can certainly help out when needed.

Speaking ahead of Game 1 of this series, Phil Gould pointed out the Queensland talisman as what makes a great State of Origin player. Three games later, and the former rugby league professional hasn’t been wrong in his analysis.

As well as his contributions to the score, however, Thurston’s activity on the pitch is one of the reasons which make him such a valued part of the Maroons lineup.

After all, while no man is an island and the one player cannot be held responsible for such an accolade, it’s no small coincidence that Queensland’s eight consecutive State of Origin wins began when Thurston made the first of his 25 appearances.

More so, it’s what Thurston does to those around him that’s great. Pulling players into the fray, providing a platform to bounce off of and opening up space for his centres and wings were just some of the aspects on display for this year’s State of Origin III meeting.

In the likes of Josh Morris, Brett Morris and James McManus, New South Wales had some potentially devastating backs, but again, it’s the defensive graft of Thurston which helped limit that particular trio’s say—albeit McManus scoring in Monday’s Game 3.

With a difference of two points between the sides, it was also Thurston’s penalty which ensured New South Wales had just too much of a mountain to climb, essentially winning the game for Queensland.

Now, the question turns to just how many more matches of this kind the 30-year-old has left in him. Renowned for its brutal nature, Thurston’s body has undoubtedly taken its fair share of hits over the years but may yet be laid on the line for quite some time if Queensland are to continue their reign of dominance.