Newspaper article News Mail Bundaberg Qld.

JT Wants Players' Welfare to Come First; Thurston Wants Changes Made to Aid Recovery from Brutal State of Origin Games

Newspaper article News Mail Bundaberg Qld.

JT Wants Players' Welfare to Come First; Thurston Wants Changes Made to Aid Recovery from Brutal State of Origin Games

Article excerpt

Byline: WAYNE HEMING

DUAL Dally M winner Johnathan Thurston has warned rugby league's powerbrokers they are playing Russian roulette with players' careers by pressuring them into backing up for their NRL clubs just days after brutal State of Origin games.

Thurston has played a record 28 successive Origin games since 2005.

The only player to appear in every game of Queensland's record eight straight series wins, he sounded alarm bells in Origin camp on the Gold Coast, saying unless those in charge of the game adopted a proposal similar to the blueprint recently put forward by master coach Wayne Bennett, NRL clubs should start bracing themselves to lose more and more star players to Origin-related injuries.

The Cowboys great said he feared nobody was listening to the players' pleas despite repeated warnings from its senior stars and leading coaches that the health of the game's best players was being put at risk, with demands and expectations on them reaching the "borderline ridiculous" stage.

Bennett, who has won seven premierships and coached Queensland Origin teams involved in some of the closest and fiercest series ever staged, shares Thurston's concerns for player welfare.

He has suggested playing all three Origin games over a one-month period mid-year, with each state picking extended squads of 22 to 24 players to rotate through the series.

The NRL competition would be divided into split rounds during the interstate clashes, with representative players being given a minimum of seven days rest before turning out for their NRL clubs.

Thurston said at the moment, players felt obligated to back-up through pride for their club and their fans no matter how smashed up they were.

"I know all the boys pride themselves on backing up for their club. I know I do. …

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