Johnathan Thurston has selected his greatest Queensland team in State of Origin’s 40-year history, declaring Cameron Smith as the best player he’s ever played alongside.
To celebrate Origin’s 40-year anniversary, Channel Nine’s expert commentary team has submitted its greatest NSW and Queensland sides as part of a panel to decide the best 17 of both teams over the past four decades.
NRL.com and The Sydney Morning Herald have been granted a sneak peek into the results through Thurston’s team.
The former Cowboys, Queensland and Australian halfback selected nine of his former Maroons teammates that featured throughout the state’s period of dominance. Thurston’s team comes after Andrew Johns named his greatest NSW side, which featured just one current player.
Billy Slater: “He’s the greatest fullback I’ve ever played with. Defensively he’s good at getting the line organised, especially on the try line. Offensively, he only just needs a little bit of space and he does the rest.”
Wendell Sailor: “Coming from the back field, he’s so big and strong. He’s great under the high ball and is definitely a big body there.”
Lote Tuqiri: “Another big body. Scored a lot of tries in Origin as well. Him and Dell bringing out of the back field, that’s what you need. Two big bodies, that’s what I like.”
Mal Meninga: “He leads from the front and inspires those around him. I’ve seen that first hand when he was the coach. When he says jump, I say how high, that’s how much respect I have for him.”
Greg Inglis: “If we didn’t have him in our side, I don’t think we have the streak that we did. He could just find a way to the try line to win us the game or create opportunities for us to ice the game. Just give him the ball and watch him do the rest.”
Darren Lockyer: “He was an idol of mine and to get the opportunity to play with him, I was like a kid in a candy shop. He was five, six, seven sets ahead of everyone else on the field. When you needed the big moments, you just give him the ball.”
Allan Langer: “He’s one of the greatest halves ever. He inspires people around him. His short kicking game, his running game and he’s a character in the team – that’s what you want in your team. State of Origin is such a big build up, and you need a player like Alf to keep it light-hearted.”
Cameron Smith: “I mentioned Locky being six or seven sets ahead of everyone else, Smithy was like nine or 10. There’s no one better. He can turn a match, he knows how to speed it up and he knows how to slow it down. He’s the best player I’ve ever played alongside.”
Petero Civoniceva: “I always felt safe when Petero was in the side. I knew he was going to get us on the front foot and I knew he was going to be aggressive. That’s what I liked. He was going to give you that seven or eight out of 10 every time he strapped the boots on.”
JT’s greatest ever Queensland team
Arthur Beetson: “Obviously I didn’t get to see much of him play, but when he led the team out in 1980 with all the chalk over him, it’s just such an iconic image of State of Origin. He’s like the godfather of Origin. Without him it wouldn’t be what it is.”
Sam Thaiday: “He was always aggressive with the ball and without the ball. He had a really good combination with Locky and Billy as well.”
Gorden Tallis: “I didn’t get the chance to play alongside Gordie, but when you speak to those who played alongside him they say if he had that look in his eye, you knew you weren’t going to lose.”
Wally Lewis: “Eight man of the matches – his record speaks for itself. It would have been a lot of fun back in the days playing alongside someone like The King. He led from the front and the rest followed.”
Nate Myles: “Just aggressive with the ball and especially defensively. Very underrated but deserves a lot of the accolades. Playing in the halves, you need men like that around you and he was one of the best at that.”
Gene Miles: “I was thinking if an outside back went down, I could chuck him in there. If a back-rower went down, I could chuck him in there as well. He played over 20 games of Origin and knows what it takes to win big games.”
Steve Price: “He was the captain at the Bulldogs while I was there and led from the front. That didn’t change to the day he retired. He doesn’t have an aggressive style but when he took hit ups he would create ruck speed for you, and defensively he could come out of the line and put shots on.”
Cooper Cronk: “A very articulate football brain and could also play a great bench role as well. I think coaching will be his role down the track, that’s for sure.”
Mal Meninga: “You need a coach who knows how to bring a group together and play for each other and certainly play for the state.”