Johnathan Thurston one that got away for Kiwis

CHRIS BARCLAY
Last updated 20:32 18/04/2013
Johnathan Thurston
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DOUBTFUL STARTER: Johnathan Thurston is suffering from a virus and could miss State of Origin game one.

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Daryl Halligan kicked 855 goals during his first grade rugby league career but one remained out of reach - the conversion of Johnathan Thurston to a Kiwis test star.

Had Halligan been more persuasive once learning Thurston's father Graham was a New Zealander in 2004, the Queensland and Kangaroos five-eighth might have been performing the haka at Canberra Stadium tomorrow night.

A former Kiwis selector and 20-test winger, Halligan perfected Thurston's unorthodox hooked goal kicking style while he was on the staff at the Canterbury Bulldogs, and also tried to guide the NRL superstar to the New Zealand Rugby League.

Thurston revealed he considered pledging his allegiance to the Kiwis for the 2004 Tri-Nations series - he was in the formative stages of his NRL career back then and the legendary Darren Lockyer had a mortgage on the Queensland and Kangaroos five-eighth jersey.

 "I spoke to my family, Mum and Dad, and I did have to consider it," Thurston told The Daily Telegraph newspaper.

"Daryl Halligan called me because Dad was a Kiwi. I was honoured someone like him would ask me. But in the end I decided to stay and pursue the dream of playing for Australia."

Two years later he debuted for the Kangaroos and tomorrow night he earns his 25th cap in the Anzac test. 
Halligan vaguely remembers trying to coax Thurston to go with the Kiwis and has no regrets.

"It was a little while ago now but I do remember trying to have a chat about it. Jono was pretty adamant he wanted to go down the Australian path.

"I've been copping some shit about it today but I keep telling the guys I'll keep trying to get them across.

"It won't stop me trying to get Kiwis to play for New Zealand if they've got a little bit of heritage."

"You always sound out different guys to see where their allegiances lie. We won't stop trying," he said.

Meanwhile, he was enthused by the Kiwis actual halves pairing of Kieran Foran and Shaun Johnson, who combine for the first time at international level.

"The halves are exciting. Everyone knows what Shaun Johnson can bring. He only needs a couple of great attacking moments to put his stamp on the game, and defensively he's got better this season."

However, he was not predicting the Kiwis first Anzac test victory since 1998 given the absence of Sonny Bill Williams and Benji Marshall.

"Not having Sonny's a massive blow, Benji's another blow," Halligan said, holding out hope for an upset.

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"New Zealand teams have fronted sometimes when they're not expected to."

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