Tony Durkin: NRL's million dollar men under the microscope

WITH no disrespect to Daly Cherry-Evans, if he is worth $1.1 million a season, what would be the going rate for Johnathan Thurston if he was off contract?

Most commentators are at odds about which of the NRL's big-name players is the best of the best, but Thurston certainly sits at the top alongside Greg Inglis, Cameron Smith, Shaun Johnson and Billy Slater.

And then we have those who may not be the million-dollar men, but are on the cusp.

Cooper Cronk heads that number, along with DCE, Kieran Foran, Adam Reynolds, Corey Parker, James Graham, Jesse Bromwich, Gareth Widdop and Matt Moylan.

With nothing left in his 85kg tank, he slept for 15 hours the day after Origin.

Most of the second list, if on the open market, would command huge dollars - around the $500,000-a-season mark.

Game breakers in their own special way, they give a team the X-factor.

But Thurston, as he revealed yet again this past week, is a freakish talent. And at 32 and nearing the end of his career, he is perhaps in the best form we have seen.

On Wednesday night he was magnificent in a losing Queensland side in Origin game two.

He did everything physically and mentally possible to get the Maroons home, and was literally battered.

With nothing left in his 85kg tank, he slept for 15 hours the day after Origin.

That he was able to back up against the Raiders three days later is testament not just to his fortitude, but to his mental toughness, and especially his love for the Cowboys jersey.

He appreciates the importance of his on-field presence to the team and that was evident - yet again - against the Raiders.

Ironically, it was a penalty against the Cowboys skipper that levelled the scores with three minutes left on the clock, and golden-point overtime was on the cards.

It was also Thurston who had two field goal attempts charged down before he calmly potted the winner with a mere four seconds left.

But that calmness under pressure at the end isn't just what stamps him as arguably the most dominant player in the game.

He played a major role in two of his team's three tries and landed two goals as well as the decisive field goal.

He had been dissatisfied with his recent post-Origin offerings for his team, and what makes him special is why he backed up at the weekend, why he played with an injured shoulder and how he was able to find the physical and mental resources of which mere mortals dream.

I have been a member of the voting panel which anointed the past four Immortals and if invited again, there is no prize for guessing who among the current crop will get my nod.

Even his laugh deserves to be immortalised.

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