Ben Barba admits he had mixed feelings watching North Queensland pivot Johnathan Thurston hit top form in the trans-Tasman rugby league Test.
As a Queenslander, Ben Barba is excited by Test pivot Johnathan Thurston’s pre-State of Origin form.
But as his NRL rival, not so much.
Brisbane fullback Barba admitted he had mixed emotions watching Thurston inspire Australia’s 30-18 trans-Tasman victory over a plucky New Zealand on Friday night in Sydney.
It augers well for Queensland’s quest to claim an unprecedented ninth straight Origin crown.
However, the signs are more ominous for Barba’s Broncos just days away from lining up against Thurston’s North Queensland in Townsville in a crunch NRL clash.
“Johnno is coming off some great form in the Test,” Barba said.
“He seems to be finding some form and, when he is on, the boys up there really seem to pick up and go with him.
“You are really happy for him because he is a Maroon but you are not as happy when you have to mark up against him.”
The Cowboys (12th; 3-5 record) might still be having teething problems under new coach Paul Green but Barba believed Friday night’s showdown would provide a timely gauge for Brisbane (6th; 4-4).
“We see them as one of the best teams in the competition when they are on their game,” he said.
“Their last game against Parramatta (42-14 last-round win) really showed what they are capable of.”
Last-minute fadeouts have cost Brisbane who have lost two games by four points and another by just two this year – not that Barba had to be reminded.
“We have been going through why it seems we have been losing some close games in the last 10 minutes,” he said.
“Everyone is working hard and recognising the problems that we have.
“Hopefully, we can put in an 80-minute performance this week and really go on with it.”
Barba gave himself the green light for the Cowboys clash despite being nursed through training this week as a precaution as he deals with a foot complaint first suffered in the pre-season Auckland Nines.
Meanwhile, prop Martin Kennedy (ankle) and Kiwi Test utility Alex Glenn (foot) were named to face North Queensland despite niggles, while five-eighth Josh Hoffman (achilles) returns.
However, ex-Test prop Ben Hannant appears on the outer after being replaced on the bench by David Hala and Australian back-rower Sam Thaiday (calf) was again a notable absentee from Griffin’s 18-man line-up.