Mystery may surround who will wear the Queensland number six jersey in State of Origin I but Cooper Cronk believes Johnathan Thurston will be his Maroons halves partner.
Maroons coach Kevin Walters is mulling over potential replacements for Thurston as he sweats on the playmaker’s fitness ahead of Origin I in Brisbane on May 31.
Thurston injured his shoulder in last Friday night’s Anzac Test in Canberra, but scans confirmed he would not require season-ending surgery, giving the Maroons hope he may be available during the Origin period.
Walters will run the rule over Brisbane pivot Anthony Milford’s NRL duel with Manly half Daly Cherry-Evans on Saturday night.
North Queensland’s Michael Morgan and Parramatta’s Corey Norman are also expected to be in the mix if Thurston succumbs to the shoulder complaint.
Still, Cronk was certain Thurston will run out alongside him at the end of the month.
Cronk said time and again he had seen Thurston overcome injuries against the odds to play a record 36 consecutive Origins since his 2005 debut.
He does not expect Thurston’s streak to end any time soon.
“I am pretty sure Johnno will be working around the clock and doing what he needs to do — it’s still two weeks away,” Cronk said.
“I know John. He’s a proud Queenslander and he hasn’t missed 36 games.
“If it is up to him I don’t think he is going to miss number 37.”
Maroons halves speculation ‘irrelevant’
Cronk was not worried about the Maroons halves depth but said it was too early to discuss replacements for Thurston.
“The conversations we have now about who may or may not play is essentially irrelevant,” he said.
“Those conversations we have on the Sunday before they pick the team. Until then everyone is a possibility.”
Manly coach Trent Barrett was happy to spruik Cherry-Evans’s Origin claims ahead of their Broncos clash, which is part of a double-header in Brisbane.
Cherry-Evans played the last of his six Origins in 2015.
Barrett said Cherry-Evans was ready for Origin again after new halves partner Blake Green’s arrival at Manly this year sparked a form revival.
“I think the whole team was not functioning that well last year,” he said.
“It was down to a few things.
“Injuries in key positions certainly didn’t help the way we were attacking.
“I think Daly had five different five-eighths and a couple of different hookers and full-backs.”