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Maroons mindful of Thurston farewell

By Eden Richards‌, Queensland Correspondent‌‌, ‌‌‌NRL.com

Johnathan Thurston stands with Maroons teammates.
Johnathan Thurston has worn the No.6 jersey with distinction.

They can deny it all they want, but you mention Johnathan Thurston around any of the Queensland Maroons' 17 and it becomes clear whom their motivation is heading into Game III.

Thurston's State of Origin farewell has been ruined by a shoulder injury, with the 34-year-old missing what was set to be his last match in Maroon on Wednesday night.

The season-ending injury was a cruel finish to a decorated Origin career that began way back in 2005 and included 36 straight matches for Queensland.

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Despite putting so much on the line for the Maroons over the years, the man many refer to as 'the GOAT' (Greatest Of All Time) will not let Wednesday be about him, turning down the offer of a lap of honour before the match.

Instead he will retreat to the dressing sheds after a quick interview in front of a sold-out Suncorp Stadium crowd.

The 37-Origin veteran has been an enormous part of Queensland's 10 series wins in the past 11 years and another would be exactly what he deserves after his heroics in Game II.

Thurston battled on with one arm as his injured shoulder caused havoc for much of the second half of Origin II. Despite the pain, Thurston went on to kick the winning conversion in the dying minutes to give his side a two-point victory and keep the series alive.

Fitting finale

For his North Queensland Cowboys and Maroons teammate Michael Morgan, this was a fitting way for a champion of the game to bow out of the Origin arena.

"I was very disappointed for him personally (because) it obviously became his last game. But to finish it the way he did – as a champion – is what he deserved," Morgan said.

"You still want to make it a good series so that you can say he won his last series as an Origin player, so there's a bit of motivation there still."

Tireless support

Second-row forward Gavin Cooper was a huge part of Thurston's Origin II performance, helping his teammate and friend in defence when his shoulder started to give way.

Cooper finished the match with 47 tackles and was one of Queensland's best, working tirelessly to help get the Maroons over the line.

Cooper said it is something he will look back on fondly, knowing that he was lucky enough to start next to Thurston in his last Origin match.

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"It was a special game to be part of, especially with the way it finished," Cooper said.

"The hype that Thurston gets around Origin is all justified. He could probably get even more hype if people had some more paper space.

"Everything he's done at Origin level is amazing. He finds a way for great things to happen around him. He showed that again in Game II."

* This article first appeared at NRL.com