Smith lauds 'unbelievable' Maroons match-winner Thurston

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Queensland Maroons skipper Cameron Smith heaped praise on "warrior" Johnathan Thurston after the superstar half-back marked his State of Origin return with a match-winning conversion to keep the series alive.

Thurston, who will retire from Maroons duty after this year's matches with New South Wales Blues, missed his first Origin match since 2004 last month - the veteran sidelined through injury as Laurie Daley's side recorded a comprehensive victory in Brisbane.

However, the Australia playmaker was back for game two in Sydney on Wednesday and held his nerve to land a decisive kick in the 78th minute, after Dane Gagai's second try had enabled Queensland to cancel out a 10-point half-time deficit.

Smith - a long-time team-mate of Thurston at state and international level - lauded the efforts of a player who defied a shoulder problem to lead the Maroons to victory.

"He's got nearly every joint in his body strapped up tonight," said Smith of Thurston in a post-match news conference. "He's a warrior, isn't he?

"Some of the things he's gone through in his career and to still be able to play at this level - it's quite remarkable. He took a couple of whacks during training this week. I really don't know how he gets up for these matches most of the time and to still be able to play the way he does, it really is quite unbelievable.

"His body's not 100 per cent, there's no doubt about that, but he just finds a way. He finds a way to get himself up for these games and makes things happen.

"He's a special talent, we all know that. And special players, they get themselves up, they find a way to get there and play well."

A fine goal-kicker himself, Smith expressed admiration for Thurston's ability to split the posts under intense pressure.

"As good as the effort was tonight from everyone, the play that got us the win was that goal kick," added the hooker. "We gave him an opportunity there to put us in front and I don't know how many people would have put that over. I couldn't hear myself think and I was waiting back on the try-line to receive the kick-off, I wasn't even having a shot at goal. 

"I can't think of anyone else that you'd want to have a crack at goal there. I just said to him, 'mate, you're the best, just go and kick it', and he did and we got a victory."