North Queensland coach Paul Green has hailed Johnathan Thurston after his return to form in the Cowboys’ victory over the Newcastle Knights on Friday night.
The Knights began the second half 12 points in front only for Thurston to turn the game on its head by setting up three tries and scoring one himself, as the home side ran out 20-18 winners at 1300SMILES Stadium in Townsville.
Although Green insists Thurston’s play has not been as below par as has been suggested in his last year in the NRL, he spoke admiringly about the way the Maroons great has handled the adversity thrown at him.
“It hasn’t been easy but I’m proud of the way he’s copped the criticism, but responded to it too,” Green said.
“I’ve said all year if you look at stats and I know stats don’t tell everything, he’s in the top five for a lot of those attacking stats.
“I’ve been saying all year the criticism is unwarranted but because of the player he is everyone expects him to go out and give a 10-out-of-10 game. We don’t need that from him.”
Thurston wouldn’t be drawn on his performance, but praised his team’s second half display after “a few f-bombs” from their premiership coach, and wants them to take this on in the final five games of the campaign.
“We weren’t playing great footy but we kept turning up for each other,” Thurston said.
“We’ve got players who can play in our team, we just need to get them the ball in the right areas and hold onto the ball.”
The Cowboys, who travel to Sydney to face the Roosters next Saturday, remain second from bottom on the ladder after the Bulldogs beat the Wests Tigers also on Friday night.