League: Thurston confident he'll deal with life after Locky

Johnathan Thurston of the Kangaroos. Photo / Getty Images
Johnathan Thurston of the Kangaroos. Photo / Getty Images

Darren Lockyer was a constant in the Australian side for 59 tests. He was like the gold trim on the green uniform, the embellishment to what was already a successful formula.

Now the Kangaroos are facing up to life after Lockyer as they prepare for Friday's Anzac test against the Kiwis at Eden Park. For most normal sides, that would be a difficult task, given Lockyer holds the world record for tests played and is widely regarded as one of the game's greatest players. But Australia aren't any normal side.

In comes Cooper Cronk, who just happens to have played 13 tests already as well as six State of Origin and 191 NRL games, to play alongside Johnathan Thurston (22 tests and 21 Origin matches).

"With Locky gone now, they are pretty big boots to fill but I am confident in my own ability that I can do the job for the team," said Thurston, who will shift out to five-eighth. "I don't see any disruptions with me and Cooper playing in the halves. We will complement each other's game, finally."

The pair have rarely played in the halves together. Thurston remembers only a 30-minute stint in a test against France in 2009 and Cronk added another match against Wales last year.

But both have been in the Australian system for some time. Cronk is widely regarded as one of the best organisers in the game and Thurston is a two-time Dally M medal winner.

The Kiwis will also field a new halves combination with exciting youngster Shaun Johnson making his much-anticipated debut alongside skipper Benji Marshall in the absence of the injured Kieran Foran.

Australia and Thurston have been preparing for life after Lockyer for a while and Thurston precipitated a shift to the No6 jersey for his Cowboys side this season to get himself ready.

"That's where I want to play and where I want to finish my career, with the No6 jersey," the 28-year-old said. "I am still getting used to it. It's been a long time since I played there. The Bulldogs recruited me as a No6 and the Cowboys recruited me in 2005 as a No6 so I am familiar with the role and the more time I spend there the more comfortable I will get.

"I suppose I'm in the back end of my career now. I can sit back and pick and choose the time that I want [to inject myself into the game].

"Locky used to sit at the back and chime in when he wanted to and get the ball when he needed it. When opportunities came up, he took it and had a fair bit of success doing that. As a No6, it's certainly a role I would like to play."

- APNZ

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