North Queensland has won 11 National Rugby League matches in a row to be level on points at the top of the ladder with Queensland rival Brisbane but one thinks that the Cowboys are underpriced to make it 12 consecutive victories.
National Rugby League teams name provisional line-ups on Tuesdays and the big news out of this week’s announcements was that North Queensland halfback Johnathan Thurston (our pick to win the Dally M Medal) did not appear on the Cowboys list. North Queensland coach Paul Green is adamant that Thurston needs a rest during the State of Origin series in which he is starring for Queensland and he says that the man known in rugby circles as JT will not feature for the Cowboys against Cronulla on Saturday.
Thurston is the best rugby league player of his generation and, if there is to be a ninth immortal of the game, he is odds on to be the man who joins Arthur Beetson, Clive Churchill, Bob Fulton, Reg Gasnier, Andrew Johns, Graeme Langlands, Wally Lewis and Johnny Raper as a member of the sport’s most exclusive club. North Queensland is a genuine National Rugby League premiership contender with Thurston at halfback; the Cowboys have zero chance of winning their first title if JT sustains a season-ending injury.
One is going to take Green at his word and post this article assuming that Thurston will not play for North Queensland on Saturday. One is going to suggest that Cronulla is over the odds at +180 with Betfair to win the National Rugby League Round 16 game at 1300SMILES Stadium.
Cronulla is ninth on the National Rugby League with six wins and seven losses and there is a fair chance that the Sharks will have their inspirational captain, Paul Gallen, back on board for their trip to North Queensland. But one is not all that concerned about Cronulla, which is a decent National Rugby League side but nothing more than that. No, one is concerned about North Queensland and its appalling record whenever Thurston is unavailable to pull its strings.
Thurston has missed eight National Rugby League matches for North Queensland since the beginning of the 2012 competition and the Cowboys have stunk in all eight matches. In 2012, North Queensland scraped to a 30-28 home win over Penrith before losing 18-35 to the Warriors in New Zealand. In 2013, North Queensland lost 12-31 at Gold Coast before succumbing at home to Canterbury (26-36) and Manly (14-34). In 2014, North Queensland lost 12-42 at Canberra before losing 24-27 at St George Illawarra. This year, North Queensland won 8-0 at Wests Tigers in what was the worst game of the season. So North Queensland is 2-6 without Thurston over the last three and a half National Rugby League tournaments and the Cowboys really could be 0-8. To say that Thurston is important to North Queensland is like saying that Cristiano Ronaldo is important to Real Madrid: it is a gross understatement.
North Queensland has won five of its last six National Rugby League matches versus Cronulla but Thurston has been on duty for each of those games. The most recent National Rugby League match between North Queensland and Cronulla that did not feature was the Round 14 game in 2006 that the Sharks won 26-4 at 1300SMILES Stadium. Gallen was one of Cronulla’s four try scorers in what was a very one-sided encounter.
The purpose of this column is to highlight value outsiders and, if one is looking for a bet at more generous odds, the Cronulla-Cronulla half-time/full-time double result at +333 with WilliamHill would be one’s next best recommendation.
27th June 08:35 GMT
Where to Bet: WilliamHill
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