The testimonial match for Cameron Smith and Johnathan Thurston is not your average pre-season trial.He admits coach Paul Green will deny it but backrower Gavin Cooper says the North Queensland Cowboys will be out to “do it for JT” in Friday’s blockbuster NRL trial against the Melbourne Storm.
Before his final NRL season, Cowboys playmaker Johnathan Thurston will be honoured along with good mate and Storm skipper Cameron Smith in what promises to be a 2017 grand final re-match to remember.
Cooper conceded the Cowboys could not treat the Thurston-Smith testimonial, in front of what is expected to be a bumper Suncorp Stadium crowd, as just “another trial”.
No matter what Green says.
“You will hear Paul saying ‘it won’t be about doing it for JT, it’s about putting your best foot forward’ (but) it will mean a lot,” Cooper said.
Queensland State of Origin back-rower Cooper said simply pulling on the testimonial match jersey, specially designed by Thurston and his wife Samantha, would be an honour.
“A lot of thought has gone into the jersey and there is a big story of course behind JT and Smithy’s careers and it is (important) for Queensland and Queensland sport,” Cooper said.
“I don’t want to say there is pressure there but everyone will be giving their best.”
The match will celebrate the glittering careers of Thurston and Smith, who first met as 10-year-olds in the Brisbane junior competition.
It will be the first time North Queensland tackle Melbourne since they were thumped in the 2017 NRL grand final.
“We can talk about it being another trial but..it’s the first time we have faced each other since the grand final,” Cooper said.
“I am not too sure if that will be talked about but players remember big games and hopefully this is one I will remember.”
Thurston had a rusty return from an eight-month injury layoff in last weekend’s NRL trial loss to the Wests Tigers in Cairns.
But Cowboys and Maroons forward Coen Hess said Thurston had still made a major impact at the club since returning from shoulder surgery.
“It’s good just having him in and around the team,” Hess said.
“A few of these young boys have never really had the experience of playing alongside him.
“They get to see how he goes about his business.
“For myself and them it (Thurston’s return) is a massive confidence boost.”