Jonathan Thurston has overcome injuries to both shoulders in the past month and says NSW are favourites going in to tonight’s game.
Jonathan Thurston has overcome injuries to both shoulders in the past month and says NSW are favourites going in to tonight’s game. SERGIO DIONISIO

We're the underdogs: Thurston

QUEENSLAND halfback Johnathan Thurston rates his side as “underdogs”, claiming New South Wales will start tonight’s first State of Origin as favourites.

The Maroons are missing inspirational hooker and vice-captain Cameron Smith, as well as workhorse prop Steve Price and strike centre Justin Hodges, and despite the fact they’re gunning for a fifth successive series win, Thurston was adamant the Maroons were outsiders to win the ANZ Stadium clash.

“We’ve got a couple of players missing and New South Wales will head into this game as favourites,” he said yesterday.

“We’re missing Hodgo and the likes as well.

“You can say we’re heading in as underdogs. They’ve got two games down in NSW and they’ll be fired up for that.”

Betting markets opened with NSW a $2.10 chance to claim an Origin I victory, but with Smith’s withdrawal the Blues have shortened to $1.95.

Thurston will enter the match after a disrupted month where injuries to both of his shoulders saw him miss two North Queensland games and the Anzac Test.

Melbourne halfback Cooper Cronk scored the Maroons’ utility role and will provide insurance if Thurston’s shoulder problems flare up.

NSW is expected to run lots of traffic at the Queensland halves’ pairing of Thurston and Darren Lockyer, but the Cowboys’ skipper, who’s been icing his right shoulder after training sessions, denied he would start the match with an injury.

“The shoulder’s fine. It’s nothing new to me. I get targeted week-in, week-out,” he said.

“I’m sure Bellyache (Blues coach Craig Bellamy) and the coaching staff will do the same. I’m up for the challenge.”

Cronulla enforcer Paul Gallen wasn’t picked for tonight’s match but selectors stuck with 10 players that upset Queensland in game three of last year’s series.

Thurston said he was expecting NSW’s forwards to play a similar style of game which saw them dominate Queensland in the aggression department.

The Maroons flew out of the Sunshine Coast yesterday after spending a week at Hyatt Regency Coolum. They will return to the Coast in the lead-up to games two and three.

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