The first major off-field calamity of the Maroons’ series was the QRL’s botched handling of the Ronaldo Mulitalo situation, in which the Cronulla winger was denied his Origin dream due to ineligibility.
Queensland then copped heat for the press conference performances of coach Paul Green and captain Daly Cherry-Evans after Origin II, in which they used the Mulitalo dilemma as an excuse for the dismal showing and failed to instill hope in Maroons fans.
The string of disasters was then capped off by Jai Arrow’s blatant disregard of the Maroons’ bio-security bubble, with the Rabbitohs back-rower taking a woman home with him to Queensland’s accommodation. Arrow was kicked out of camp.
But following the Maroons’ inspired 20-18 victory over the Blues in gripping scenes on the Gold Coast, Thurston had staunch words in support of Queensland’s culture.
“I’m so proud of the boys, the way they dug in after the first two games and then the issues faced by the team when we got into camp for Game Three … They stuck solid, they stuck by each other and it’s an unbreakable bond when you’re in the Maroons culture,” Thurston told Peter Psaltis on Wide World of Sports’ 4BC radio.
“That was evident last night, the way they fought hard for each other. They kept turning up. I’m very proud of them, what they’ve been able to do given what had gone on in the series.
“It’s a really good win for the Maroons and we have a bright future ahead of us.”
It was Dragons captain Ben Hunt who inspired the Maroons’ stunning defeat of the Blues in Origin III, with the veteran shifting from the bench to start at hooker and producing a man-of-the-match performance.
The former Bronco posted two tries, two line-breaks and 41 tackles, and produced several match-defining efforts in defence, as the Maroons denied the Blues their first series whitewash since 2000.
“It was no doubt his best (game) in the Maroons jersey,” Thurston said.
“To play 80 minutes at hooker – we had Val (Holmes) go down. We had trained all week to bring AJ (Brimson) on and run different sets with Benny at lock. When Val went down he had to punch out 80 in the middle and he did it on his ear.
“He looked very comfortable out there and if all goes well next year it’s going to be a real tight three-way battle with Harry Grant and Reed Mahoney also fighting it out for that No.9 jersey.
“He was enormous last night and that’s what we needed from him.”
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