Under-fire Queensland Origin league five-eighth Johnathan Thurston has found an unlikely ally in New South Wales coach Laurie Daley.
The reigning Golden Boot winner has been uncharacteristically subdued in this year's State of Origin series as NSW saw off the Maroons for the first time since 2005.
Thurston missed 11 tackles in the two encounters played so far. Last week, he was accused of losing control by North Queensland teammate James Tamou late in game two when he became involved in a stand-off with opposite number Josh Reynolds and was placed on report.
The 30-year-old test star will make his 30th consecutive appearance in a Maroons jersey and Daley, an outstanding playmaker in his own right during an illustrious career with Canberra, NSW and the Kangaroos, believes criticism aimed at him has been unfair.
"He's one of the world's best ever players and he's proven that time and time again," Daley said.
"He's a wonderful player ... a legend of our game and someone who deserves respect."
Daley worked with Thurston in his spell as coach of the Indigenous All Stars and said he's wary of a backlash.
"The criticism he's received has been unfair. He's a champion and he'll respond in a positive manner tomorrow night in Brisbane and that's something we have to guard against.
"We've seen all the great players at some stage in their careers have off nights," said Daley.
"But what he does for this Queensland team over time has been phenomenal and without him they may not have won some of the clashes against NSW.
"Some of the things said about him this year have been unjust."
Meanwhile, Queensland coach Mal Meninga has raised eyebrows by opting not to front the media ahead of tomorrow's game III at Suncorp Stadium.
In a move that is set to draw more criticism from rivals NSW, the Maroons confirmed captain Cameron Smith - not Meninga - will attend the pre-game press conference today.
Smith was expected to talk yesterday with Meninga holding his traditional match eve media event today.
However, Queensland cancelled all media commitments yesterday, ensuring Meninga will be a no-show ahead of a game the Maroons must win to avoid their first whitewash since 2000.
Queensland lost the second Origin match at ANZ Stadium in Sydney 6-4.
Meninga has endured a tumultuous Origin III build-up after rookie winger Will Chambers became embroiled in an assault allegation.
Chambers was later cleared of any wrongdoing and police dropped the investigation.