QUEENSLAND selectors should break with tradition and name North Queensland star Johnathan Thurston co-captain with Cameron Smith in next month's third State of Origin game in Brisbane.
The honour would be worthy recognition for Thurston's role in the Maroons' eight-series winning streak which came to an end this year.
The Cowboys playmaker will join an elite group of only six players from the 178 who have donned the Maroon jumper since 1980, to have played in 30 Origin games.
Queensland great Wally Lewis (31) was the first member of the 30-game club in 1991, followed by Mal Meninga (32) who went on to coach Queensland to the extraordinary streak which is unlikely to be repeated.
Allan Langer (34), all-time record holder Darren Lockyer (36), workhorse forward Petero Civoniceva (33), and Smith (32), who will move to within three games of joining his former team-mate Lockyer as Queensland's the most capped Origin player in game III, round out the elite group.
Thurston, 31, holds the unique record of being the only player to have appeared in all 24 games from the start of the run in 2006.
An arm injury before the first game of the 2010 series, in which Manly hooker Matt Ballin wore the No.9 jumper for the Maroons, prevented Smith from matching Thurston's achievement.
What is even more remarkable about Thurston's feat is that he has played his 29 Origin games since 2005 without missing a game, smashing former Queensland ironman Garry Larson's previous record of 22 games in-a-row.
His two goals in Sydney last week saw him move to 162 Origin points, edging past Meninga as Queensland's greatest point scorer.
There would be no better tribute to Thurston than for him to lead Queensland on to Suncorp Stadium with Smith next month as they fight to avoid the first series clean-sweep since the embarrassing 56-16 third-game loss in Sydney in 2000.
He and Smith, who turned 32 last week, are so close in age the Cowboys co-captain may not get another chance to lead Queensland.
Barring injury or form, it is inevitable Smith will claim Lockyer's all-time record.
Depending on injury and longevity, Thurston looms as a possible challenger to the games record.
The only player capable of reeling them in would be centre Greg Inglis, who at 27, has another five years or more to add to his 23 Origins.
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