Thurston’s genius to inspire North Queensland Cowboys win

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There’s not much Johnathan Thurston hasn’t won, and by Sunday night chances are he’ll have completed a full house when North Queensland Cowboys face Leeds Rhinos in the World Club Challenge.

The Australia half-back is considered the greatest rugby league player in the world currently and will no doubt go down as an all-time great when he eventually retires.

He has two NRL Grand Final medals to his name, a Rugby League World Cup, eight State of Origin series wins for Queensland to go alongside countless international series wins and a host of personal accolades.

But, he’s yet to win the World Club Challenge, and he’ll never have a better chance of doing so than when he leads the Cowboys at Headingley against the English champions.

Leeds have suffered a hugely disappointing start to the 2016 Super League season and find themselves bottom of the table after two rounds. They had to contend with losing three of their club legends in the off-season, not to mention picking up a number of injuries in the first two weeks of the season.

For that reason alone, it’s no surprise to see North Queensland down as overwhelming favourites (2/13) for the win.

Thurston’s genius may cause neutrals from both sides of the world to support North Queensland but they are by no means a one-man team, and possess more than enough talent across the board – especially in the pack – to cover the -14 point handicap (10/11).

Leeds will be missing their captain Danny McGuire as well as Jamie Jones-Buchanan and Tom Briscoe amongst others, severely hampering their chances of causing an upset against the NRL champions.

They have upset the odds before in the World Club Challenge though, most notably when they beat a Melbourne side littered with genuine world-class talent back in 2008.

But the mere fact they’re up against the most gifted player on the planet with far from a full-strength team points to an extremely difficult night for the home side.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing

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Joe Whiteley

Joe is a Yorkshireman with a love for most sports, but especially rugby league, football and cricket. After realising he didn't have the strength, skill or hand-eye coordination to play any of those professionally, he completed a degree in Sports Journalism. He has since worked for sports publishers, newspapers and a professional rugby league club before joining Ladbrokes.