Withdrawal crushes Thurston
The decision to withdraw from the Queensland team for Game I had to be taken out of his hands but a devastated Johnathan Thurston said he woke up on Thursday morning still in disbelief that he won't be playing on Wednesday.
For the first time since Game III, 2004, a State of Origin match will be played without Thurston after the champion five-eighth was officially withdrawn from the team, freeing the way for Anthony Milford to prepare for his Origin debut without any doubt.
On Wednesday morning Thurston told the media that he remained hopeful of playing his 37th consecutive Origin match but some testing late on Wednesday afternoon and a subsequent scan early Thursday morning confirmed that his shoulder was in no fit state to take the field and the decision was made.
'I didn't want to believe it until this morning. I had the worst sleep last night'
The Maroons' team doctor, Matt Hislop, advised Thurston that he shouldn't play following the results of the tests they conducted on the shoulder on Wednesday but the man himself didn't want to believe it was true until scans confirmed that it had not recovered sufficiently.
"I did some testing yesterday and the results didn't come back the way that I wanted," a clearly devastated Thurston said. "I had a chat to the doc and physio last night and I didn't want to believe it.
"I wanted a scan to clarify that in my own mind that I'm not fit enough to play and that confirmed that this morning.
"I didn't want to believe it until this morning. I had the worst sleep last night. Once I got the scan done I had another chat to the doc.
"I am relieved that the doc has taken it out of my hands because I was keen on playing.
"It's the best decision for the team moving forward and that's the way it goes."
Confirming that the injury does not require surgery, Thurston has now targeted the Cowboys' Round 14 clash with the Eels in Townsville to make his return. If he does make it back for that match it will be his only hit-out in six weeks prior to going into camp for Origin II.
'It's devastating not to be a part of it'
The 34-year-old has decided to step down from representative football at the end of the Kangaroos' World Cup campaign and said this latest disappointment won't tempt him into playing again for Queensland in 2018.
"I am at peace with the decision I have made," Thurston said.
"If I don't play another Origin game it will be devastating but I have a lot of memories that I will cherish from being part of this team.
"Obviously I'm devastated. I love everything about the Origin campaign, the build-up, the final training run, the buzz around the city, the town and wherever you are.
"It's devastating not to be a part of it when that two-minute bell goes."
The withdrawal of Thurston gives Milford and Cooper Cronk four training sessions in which to bed down a new scrumbase combination, a combination Cronk admits he won't know will work until after Game I is completed.
'We have to pick up the slack'
"It's devastating. Johnathan Thurston has been front and centre of everything that the Queensland Origin side has done for 30-odd games – he's never missed one – but on Wednesday night he's not going to be there," Cronk said.
"We have to pick up the slack, get the job done and there'll be no excuses.
"We've got a spine meeting later today and we'll have a chat about how we want to play and use Milford's skills but also getting him to buy into what we've done over a period of time because it has worked.
"We can train and trial everything but we can't answer that until about 9.30 next Wednesday night."