‘When JT calls, ScoMo answers’
Johnathan Thurston would be voted in as mayor of Townsville if he ever ran for office and he's got friends in even higher levels of government after an illustrious NRL career.
As the Cowboys and Queensland legend revealed in the Channel 9 broadcast of last night's game between Melbourne and the Warriors, he has the ear of Prime Minister Scott Morrison - and the country's leader always has time to take the footy superstar's call.
After Melbourne's thrilling 13-12 win over the Kiwi side on Anzac Day, Thurston regaled fellow commentators James Bracey, Paul Vautin and Billy Slater about the time he showed off to his mates just how high his influence reached.
The 36-year-old - who retired at the end of last season - was telling a story about the day he received a text message from a number he didn't recognise. It was because at the time, he didn't have the Prime Minister's contact details in his phone.
Thurston was with some mates and when he realised who the text was from, proudly told them. Despite their pleas to give Morrison a ring, Thurston held off.
But peer pressure won in the end and on another occasion when he was out with his golfing buddies, Thurston couldn't hold out - even though it was 10pm.
"They're like, 'Call him' so I ended up calling thinking he wouldn't answer. He's answered the phone so I've pooped myself when he's answered," Thurston said.
"I've gone, 'I'm with some boys who just wanted to say a quick hello' and he said something so I went, 'Wait, I need to put you on speaker so I can tell the boys'.
"He goes, 'When JT calls, ScoMo answers."
FRIEND COPS CRUEL BLOW
Jake Friend's shot at a maiden State of Origin jersey appears crushed after scans confirmed the Queensland hooking candidate had suffered a biceps rupture.
One of the frontrunners for the Maroons No. 9 jersey, Friend was told on Friday morning he'd suffered a serious injury to his right biceps.
Friend left the field in the second half of the Sydney Roosters' Anzac Day NRL win over St George Illawarra, shortly after attempting a tackle on Matt Dufty. The Roosters are yet to confirm how long Friend will spend on the sidelines, although it's understood he would likely miss between 3-4 months with surgery.
It comes as a cruel blow to the 29-year-old, who has for so long played understudy to Cameron Smith in Queensland.
On return from a shoulder injury against the Dragons, Friend starred and looked as if he was about to play himself into the Maroons side. He outshone likely rival Ben Hunt, kicking a 40-20 out of dummy-half in the lead-up to one try and forcing an error to set up another.
He also pulled off a try-saving tackle on Hunt as the Dragons No. 7 scooted out of dummy-half, forcing the ball free just as the Saints looked set to mount a comeback.
"He wasn't the best (after the game) understandably," Roosters and NSW captain Boyd Cordner said.
"Friendy has been knocking on the door for a while now … he's a passionate guy and passionate Queenslander.
"I know how much that jersey would mean to him … He's playing the best he has in his career.
"He has all the attributes to play State of Origin."
Friend's Origin-like toughness was as clear as ever on Anzac Day, when he returned to the field taped up less than 10 minutes after copping the blow.
"It's upsetting, disappointing, all those things," Roosters and former Queensland halfback Cooper Cronk said. "When someone has been doing a lot of the little things over a long period of time, they deserve a bit of a reward for that.
"Some of the guys who do the little things, that understand desire can sometimes override skill, those are the guys suited for Origin, Jake has that in bucketloads."
Hunt - who now looks certain to be picked at dummy-half for the Maroons - also picked up a shoulder injury in the match, but Dragons medical staff were confident it was only a bad cork.
RIVALS' PLOY TO MAKE SURE RABBITS ARE COOKED
If Wayne Bennett was coaching against Damien Cook, he'd try to slow him down too.
But now that he's the South Sydney coach, Bennett is ready to hit out at deliberate slowdown tactics NRL teams are applying to nullify his star dummy-half.
Bennett voiced his concerns about the state of the ruck following last week's win over Canterbury, claiming teams were exploiting a more lax policing of the play-the-ball in 2019.
"If you think about it, we're going to get a lot (more) pressure put on us in that area than a lot of teams because he's the best running hooker in the game," Bennett said.
"You just don't want him getting out of there.
"I've coached against him again and it's the last thing you want. You are given certain instructions into how you handle him and limit what his influence is on the game.
"As a coach I would've done it, and have done it in the past. You just don't want that quick play-the-ball because you can't defend that. It puts you under too much pressure."
Cook, the incumbent NSW State of Origin hooker, is averaging 55 metres from 5.8 carries a game this season, well down on his season average of 90 metres from 8.1 carries last year.
However, while his carries may be down, the 27-year-old still leads the league in dummy-half runs with 62 and line engagements with 52.
He is also equal-third in try assists with six, although Bennett suggests he can do more.
"He's not the problem. It's a bit hard when everything is static on the ground and two markers are set in their defensive positions," Bennett said.
"A guy his size, that minimises what he can do and what advantage you're going to have with him. It's all part of the game, it's tactics.
"The issue is if that's what's happening in the game, that's what the refs have got to get in control of. That's what they have to recognise is happening."