North Queensland coach Graham Murray has demanded Johnathan Thurston be selected at halfback for the Centennial Test after an inspiring performance in the Cowboys 48-20 thrashing of New Zealand.
Thurston, slowly finding form after dual shoulder reconstructions, hit back at critics calling for Titans halfback Scott Prince to be handed the No.7 jersey for the May 9 Test, with a commanding performance.
The outgoing Cowboys coach said Thurston, who beat a mystery virus to lead his side to a third straight victory, was still the man for the Test job.
"Scott Prince is playing good football but Johnathan is getting better," Murray said.
"He is coming back from two shoulder reconstructions, he is just hitting his straps."
"He is still the best player in the competition as far as I am concerned and he should be the Test halfback."
Thurston, clearly struggling with the effects of the virus, was just glad to contribute to the victory.
"I had a bit of a headache last night but I didn't think anything of it but I just woke up this morning with my glands all swollen and sick," Thurston said.
"I was happy with the way I played, the forwards went well and laid the platform and Mango (Matt Bowen) put himself in a position to score tries so I was pretty happy."
Thurston, the Test incumbent before shoulder surgery saw his spot go to Cooper Cronk, said he was revelling under the pressure of retaining his prized Australian jersey.
"I see it as a challenge there are a fair few good halfbacks running around."
"You have got to try and stay a step ahead and I just think each week I am slowly getting better."
The win could come at a cost for the Cowboys with star back rower Luke O'Donnell forced from the field late in the first half with a leg injury.
It was initially feared the former Australian lock had re-injured his troublesome hamstring but Murray set the record straight.
"No, no it is not his hamstring it is more of a hip flexor, he is sore and he doesn't come off easily," he said.Like