Thurston to overcome Dally M hoodoo to win premiership

MAN-of-the-moment Johnathan Thurston will have to overcome a worrying Dally M hoodoo to lead North Queensland to an historic maiden premiership in Sydney on Sunday.

Only one player in the past 20 years - Manly halfback Matt Orford in 2008 - has celebrated the Dally M/NRL premiership double in the same season.

Still, Thurston is not your average player and he has been so dominant this season, nothing seems beyond the Cowboys co-captain.

The 32-year-old has already fallen victim to the Dally M bogey once - when the Cowboys lost the 2005 grand final to the Wests Tigers.

History shows Dally M winners don't have a great premiership strike rate.

Four Dally M winners - Todd Carney (Roosters 2010), Jarryd Hayne (Parramatta 2011), Cameron Smith (Melbourne 2006) and Thurston have lost grand finals after taking out the game's highest individual award.

The Cowboys will head to Sydney tomorrow, but only if they can get through a sea of fans expected to pack the road leading to Townsville airport, and the airport itself.

Cowboys officials are bracing for wild crowd scenes as fans turn out in their thousands to wish Thurston and his players good luck for Sunday's big dance.

After feeling robbed in three previous finals campaigns, there is a feeling this has to be the Cowboys year despite Brisbane's 100% record (six from six) in grand finals under coach Wayne Bennett.

North Queensland has chartered its own plane to get fans to the NRL grand final on Sunday in the face of crippling airfare prices.

- WAYNE HEMING



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