Johnathan Thurston says a desire to become the greatest international rugby league team of all time is what’s motivating the current Australia side ahead of Friday’s Trans-Tasman Test.
The naming of an injury-hit New Zealand line-up has taken the gloss off the Allianz Stadium encounter but with Tim Sheens’ side chasing a record 16th straight win, Thurston said there’s plenty of reasons for fans to come out and watch the game.
“There’s been talk of the record if we win, we’ve won the World Cup and there is plenty of reasons for Sydneysiders to come out and support us,” Thurston said.
“They come out in their numbers when the Maroons and the Blues are smashing each other in Origin, but when we play together they don’t come out.
“Hopefully seeing the World Cup winners will bring them out.”
The last team to beat Australia was New Zealand in the 2010 Four Nations final in Brisbane and they haven’t conceded a try since the second half of the World Cup opener against England – five matches ago.
Should Sheens’ men extend that four-year run on Friday they’ll rank alongside the so-called invincibles of 1979-83 that contained the likes of Wally Lewis, Peter Sterling, Mal Meninga and Brett Kenny.
All of those players are considered greats of the game and in Thurston, Billy Slater, Cameron Smith and Greg Inglis, this current team has justifiable claims to be one of the best ever assembled.
At 31, the North Queensland skipper is fully aware the end of his career is closer than the start, but he admit he still finds himself sitting in awe at some of his teammates.
“I am very excited every time I pull on this jersey because a lot of this team are coming to the end of our careers,” Thurston said.
“This team contains some of the best players to ever play in their positions.
“Sometimes I sit there and look around and see some of the guys I’m in the same team as and you do feel very honoured to be a part of it.
“It would be great to be known as one of the best ever teams. It would be pretty special.”
NSW and Gold Coast back-rower Greg Bird broke back into the side 18 months ago after being dropped following that defeat by the Kiwis in 2010.
And the 30-year-old said getting back to be a part of the squad that won the World Cup is the highlight of his career.
“I’ve not been lucky enough to win a premiership or a State of Origin series, so to be involved in that final at Old Trafford was easily the best moment in my career,” Bird told AAP.
“It’s a truly great team, but what makes it that is because every game we play we prepare the same way, regardless of who the opposition is.
“We’re hugely proud that we didn’t concede a try after the first game against England.
“Holding a New Zealand side to just two points in the final was an achievement that hasn’t really been given that much credit.
“It’s not for me to say it’s the best team ever, but it would have to be up there.”