NRL: Jonathan Thurston shines in wet testimonial

Johnathan Thurston Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images

Not everything went to script but Johnathan Thurston still enjoyed star billing to inspire North Queensland's 16-14 win over Melbourne in their blockbuster NRL trial at Suncorp Stadium.

After a first half try, Thurston stepped up again in his testimonial with good mate Cameron Smith to set up winger Kyle Feldt's match-winning four pointer with just 18 seconds left to light up the miserable conditions.

The stage was set for a night to remember with the NRL 2017 grand final re-match doubling as a testimonial celebrating the careers of the Cowboys playmaker and evergreen Smith.

But the early signs indicated it may be one to forget with the match kicking off in torrential rain and both the Cowboys (Lachlan Coote, Kane Linnett) and Melbourne (Jahrome Hughes) suffering injuries.

And at one stage Queensland skipper Smith was even cheekily booed by the drenched pro-Cowboys crowd on the Maroons' hallowed turf as he lined up a sideline conversion, earning a laugh from the veteran.

However Thurston ensured the crowd went home with a smile after his touch of class near the stroke of fulltime.

With the clock ticking down, Thurston delivered a sublime banana kick for towering winger Feldt to score and bag a hat-trick of tries, defying the greasy conditions.

"I got lucky there," a modest Thurston said.

"But this is a special match (with Smith). We have known each other since we were 10.

"Now we are best mates, our families are very close, it means a lot to me."

Reigning Golden Boot winner Smith believed Thurston would have to be considered the world's No.1 player after just two games back from an eight month shoulder injury.

"He's No.1 easily. He's the complete footballer," he said.

"He's been out of the game for eight months and he's just toying with the defence."

Feldt was dangerous all night, delivering one of the highlights by grabbing a Michael Morgan kick one handed despite the wet to score in the 33rd minute.

But the biggest roar in the first half went to Thurston after the Cowboys co-captain made the most of a Christian Welch slip and fooled Harry Grant with a dummy to score in the 39th minute and give the Cowboys an 8-4 half time lead.

Cowboys fullback Coote was replaced by Ben Hampton at fullback after just 12 minutes with a hamstring concern.

The Cowboys later said it was precautionary and believed Coote would be fit for their March 9 season opener against Cronulla.

Melbourne fullback Hughes then injured his shoulder trying to defuse an in-goal kick in the 22nd minute.

Cowboys centre Linnett came off with a suspected pectoral injury midway in the second half.