Thurston's laugh echoes over defeated Panthers
THERE are few more infectious laughs than that of Johnathan Thurston.
And the Cowboys skipper had reason to cackle after his side thumped the Panthers in Townsville on Saturday night.
But the post-match laugh came not as a result of that win, but at the prospect of the game he looks forward to as much as any other during the season - the local derby against the Broncos.
It's one he rings on the calendar the day the draw is released.
Friday's clash in Brisbane is not just another game of footy.
It's a genuine local derby that will push the Suncorp Stadium crowd limit.
And for good measure this week, it is the annual Men of League Heritage round where most clubs revert to their original jersey design.
Not that the Cowboys will be particularly pleased about donning a replica from their early days, first worn against the Broncos in 1995.
It took them nine years to register a win over big brother.
In fact the Cowboys have a dreadful record against the Broncos, winning just seven from their 32 meetings.
But little brother has narrowed that gap of late with three wins in the past four clashes.
Irrespective of where they play and their placing on the points table, this is generally an engrossing contest played with spirit.
And this time it's about more than just the two premiership points.
The Broncos, in their 25th year, will wear a significant jersey.
It is similar to the original design of 1988, but more streamlined, tighter fitting of course, and with no collar.
But the major difference is that on the jersey front is watermarked the names of all 198 players to have represented the club in the top grade.
An added incentive awaits the likes of Sam Thaiday, Justin Hodges and Ben Hannant, who have been mostly disregarded in discussions for next week's Anzac Test.
Eye-catching performances could score them a berth.
Likewise, Cowboys contenders need to show some form, although Thurston and Kangaroo props James Tamou and Matt Scott appear certainties.
Jason Taumalolo (Cowboys) and Alex Glenn (Broncos) will also be looking to press their chances for Kiwi selection.
But there is an even more intriguing sidelight to this Heritage round match-up, and it centres on respective captains, Thurston and Thaiday. With them the word hometown becomes something of a conundrum - Thurston was born and raised in Brisbane and Thaiday a Townsville boy until he left school and signed with the Broncos.
And both were snubbed by the teams in those respective home towns - teams they grew up supporting.It's just another reason for the competitive fire to burn a little stronger.