Laurie Daley expects Thurston backlash in State of Origin III

Referee Shayne Hayne speaks to Queensland's Johnathan Thurston and Cameron Smith before putting Thurston on report during game two of the State of Origin. Picture: GETTY IMAGES

Referee Shayne Hayne speaks to Queensland's Johnathan Thurston and Cameron Smith before putting Thurston on report during game two of the State of Origin. Picture: GETTY IMAGES

RUGBY LEAGUE

On a day when Queensland coach Mal Meninga went to ground, Maroons five-eighth Johnathan Thurston found an unlikely ally in Blues coach Laurie Daley.

Thurston, the only player to have played in all 24 matches of Queensland's incredible run of eight straight series wins, has attracted criticism for his defence in both matches this year, particularly after game one when he was targeted with great effect by Blues superstar Jarryd Hayne.

He sent a scare through the Queensland camp when he failed to finish training on Sunday due a leg injury, but Daley is expecting a fit and firing Thurston to take the field on Wednesday keen to silence critics.

"The criticism that he's received has been unfair. He's one of the world's best ever players and he's proven it time and time again," Daley said.

"He's a wonderful player, he's shown that, and it's been really unfair the way that people have criticised him because he's a legend of our game and he deserves plenty of respect.

"Everyone can have off-nights, we've seen all great players at some stage in their career have off-nights, but what he does for this Queensland team has been phenomenal for a long period of time and without him they may not have won some of the clashes against NSW.

"He's a champion and he'll respond in a positive manner on Wednesday night and that's something we've got to guard against."

For the first time in nine years the Maroons look rattled after Meninga, who admitted last week that the Blues have "dented" their culture, failed to front the media on Monday. But Daley has experienced enough Origin as a player and a coach to recognise the Queensland siege mentality when he sees it.

He's expecting a backlash from more than just Thurston after the Blues kept one of the most potent backlines in rugby league history to just two tries in 160 minutes of football.

Greg Inglis, the most prolific try scorer in Origin history, Billy Slater and Cameron Smith have all been well contained and Daley expects the trio to bounce back on Wednesday as they look to avoid Queensland's first 3-0 series loss since 2000.

"To do what we've done has been pretty significant because they're a great attacking team, so to keep them to no tries in game two was a phenomenal performance by our guys but we know we had a bit of luck go our way as well," Daley said.

"They've been criticised and they've been hurting and that's a concern of mine because they're champion players and I think we've always seen that when you wind up a champion with a bit of criticism they usually come back and bite you.

"That's something we're really aware of and we know that they're going to be highly motivated."

With Wednesday's match yet to sell out, Meninga's no-show attracted criticism on Monday, but Daley said the prospect of lifting the shield in an empty stadium would not detract from the moment if his side can complete the 3-0 sweep.

"I can't control whether anyone stays behind to watch us pick up the shield but it will be a fantastic occasion for our boys when they do that," Daley said.

"But our job's not done yet, we want to play well for 80 minutes against this champion team.

"To do that we've given ourselves the best opportunity with the way we've prepared, so there's no excuses.

"We know it's going to be a tough challenge because they'll be hurting and they'll be coming out at a million miles an hour."

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