Looking for a big effort by Thurston

SYDNEY ? North Queensland coach Graham Murray is tipping Johnathan Thurston to bounce back to his Dally M-winning form in the Cowboys' do-or-die NRL final against Melbourne tonight.

Thurston was a shadow of the player who edged out Andrew Johns for league's most coveted individual award just three nights before Wests Tigers humbled the Cowboys 50-6 in the opening round of the playoffs.

But Murray, while refusing to confirm speculation Thurston would switch from five-eighth to halfback against the Storm, said blaming his chief playmaker or any awards night hangover for the defeat would be unfair. "It would be savage to pick on JT because I think the whole team was pretty poor,'' Murray said after the Cowboys' final training session ahead of the knockout semi-final at Aussie Stadium.

"He had a big week, there's no doubt about that. Did Johnathan play his best game last week? By his own admission, no.

"I can see him playing a lot better tomorrow, but I can see the team playing better too.''

Thurston clinched his Dally M award with a man-of-the-match performance in the Cowboys' last-round win over Melbourne and the Queensland State of Origin half is expected to revert to his No.7 playing role against the Storm.

Justin Smith is likely to start at five-eighth with Brett Firman relegated to the bench.

"There's plenty of speculation there,'' Murray said.

"It won't matter too much. We've picked our 18 players. Who knows?

"Rod Jensen might come into the equation.



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