Thurston tells teammates: Focus on Sharks, not me
RUGBY LEAGUE: It's the beginning for the end for one of rugby league's greatest players and a milestone he has waited nine long months to reach.
But Johnathan Thurston wants his North Queensland teammates to forget about his 300th NRL match on Friday night and focus on the task at hand - beating Cronulla.
Thurston admits he was "looked after" by the NRL after the Cowboys' season-opener was scheduled at 1300SMILES Stadium in Townsville instead of an away fixture.
That's where he wants the special treatment to end.
"If I or the boys are thinking, 'Let's do it for JT', we'll be sadly mistaken and copping a hiding on Friday night," Thurston told reporters on Monday.
"For us it's about preparing the best that we can and making sure every individual turns up."
Thurston was left stranded on 299 games when he suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in June last year.
The 34-year-old managed to patch it together to play in Queensland's miraculous State of Origin II win but was unable to return for the Cowboys and underwent a full shoulder reconstruction.
He has already retired from representative rugby league and will hang up the boots for good at the end of the 2018 season.
"Even though it's a big week for myself, we can't lose focus of what's important and making sure everyone's preparing as best as we can," Thurston said.
"Hopefully we can kick-start our season with a win but I'm sure the Sharkies have other plans."
Thurston said he has full confidence in his shoulder after putting it to the test in two pre-season hit-outs against Wests Tigers and Melbourne.
He expects it to be targeted by a Cronulla side that will be hell-bent on revenge after North Queensland knocked them out of last year's NRL finals series in the first round.
"While I've still got a lot to work on, I thought I took a giant leap in the Melbourne game," Thurston said.
"I got knocked over with the ball and trampled a few times.
"Certainly that's given me confidence and no doubt I'm sure they'll be throwing plenty of tackles at me."
The Cowboys will reportedly be without fullback Lachlan Coote, who injured his hamstring against the Storm.