Chad Townsend and Johnathan Thurston Photos: Getty Images
The mental scars have finally healed for North Queensland.
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But Cowboys playmaker Johnathan Thurston reckons they will be as raw as ever for Cronulla in Friday night's NRL preliminary final at Allianz Stadium.
And he's not even talking about the Sharks' 49-year premiership drought.
Thurston believed Cronulla were yet to exorcise their demons from the 39-0 thumping they received from the Cowboys in last year's semi-final in Townsville.
"I think that will be driving them," Thurston said.
"They didn't play too well up here.
"We were pretty clinical that night.
"No doubt that will be motivating them."
Thurston even hoped Sharks playmaker Chad Townsend may be carrying a bit of extra baggage.
Chad Townsend benched against the Raiders Photo: Getty Images
The Cronulla half was surprisingly benched late in their last clash, a qualifying win over Canberra.
"Obviously there is a bit of mental scarring when you get hooked with 20 to go," Thurston said of Townsend.
"I am sure he is level headed enough to make sure it doesn't happen.
"It may work in his favour, he might blitz it now."
Cowboys celebrate 2015 premiership win Photo: Getty Images
Thurston confirmed North Queensland had no such mental demons since their historic premiership triumph last year.
Until then, the Cowboys had earned a reputation for being on the wrong end of crunch finals calls.
There was the "hand of Foran" against Manly in 2012, Cronulla's seventh tackle try in 2013 and a controversial disallowed four-pointer against Sydney Roosters in 2014.
"We are a totally different club and team to back then," Thurston said.
"What works for us is taking those decisions out of the officials' hands.
"Now if we play well and get beaten we can cop it on the chin."
Even Friday night's venue does not conjure up any dark memories for Thurston.
North Queensland won their first final at Allianz Stadium in 2005 but have lost the past five at the venue - including those three controversial playoff matches that once haunted the club.
"It's just another field. I love playing there actually," Thurston said.
"Hopefully people come out of The Shire into the city - it should be a good night."
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