Darwin looms as the unlikely backdrop for Johnathan Thurston's State of Origin game two fitness test.
The veteran Queensland playmaker's final Origin series had a disastrous start when he was ruled out of Wednesday night's series opener at Suncorp Stadium with a shoulder injury.
Now the champion five-eighth aims to play in North Queensland's Round 14 NRL clash with the Eels at Darwin's TIO Stadium on June 10 in a bid to prove his fitness for Origin II.
The Eels Top End clash will be Thurston's last chance to play an NRL game before the Queensland team goes into camp for June 21's Origin II at Sydney's ANZ Stadium.
"Fingers crossed I will be back then," said Thurston, who will retire from representative football at season's end.
"But obviously I'm devastated (missing Origin I).
"I love everything about the Origin campaign, the build-up, the final training run, the buzz around the city."
The jury is out on whether Thurston will be back by Origin II after Maroons doctor Matt Hislop confirmed the four-time Dally M Medallist "wasn't where he needed to be" despite making early progress with the shoulder complaint.
"We always had a plan that Johnathan had to pass through a number of stages and if he ever didn't progress through one of those we would sit down and make a call," Hislop said.
"We did some further objective tests which showed he had not progressed to the stage where we could move onto the next step of skill work and contact."
The injury snaps Maroon ironman Thurston's remarkable run of 36 straight Origins since his 2005 debut.
The three-time Golden Boot winner had played in every game of Queensland's 10 series wins in the last 12 years.
"I haven't really thought about that. It wasn't my focus in my thought process," Thurston said of his streak ending.
"It was always about the team. The decision has been made now for the betterment of the team."
Thurston will remain at Queensland's Gold Coast camp to mentor his replacement, debutant Anthony Milford.
"Kevvie (coach Kevin Walters) asked me to do that," Thurston said.
"As long as the boys want me here, I am more than happy to stay around in this environment.
"I spoke to Milf. I congratulated him first.
"He can get that clarity now and start preparing."
His shoulder may have ruled him out of Origin I but Thurston reckoned watching the series opener from the sidelines would hurt more.
"I don't want to think about it. No doubt it is going to hurt," he said.
IMAGE AAP/Michael Chambers
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