MAROONS teammates Cameron Smith and Johnathan Thurston will put their close mateship aside tonight as they use every trick of the trade to get their clubs into next Sunday's NRL grand final.
The pair, who shared in Queensland's record eight-series Origin streak, will clash for the 20th time in the NRL, with Smith holding an 11-8 edge.
But Thurston is 2-0 in the only two finals they have played.
Both players are the best in the business at controlling games, but in vastly different ways.
Smith can be very clinical and ruthless out of dummy half, while Thurston will probe and test the defensive line every time he touches the ball.
They will be the "go-to" players if the game is on the line, but before that two of the best props in the world - Matt Scott (Cowboys) and Jesse Bromwich (Melbourne) - will set the tone with what will be a war of metres in the middle.
A concern for Cowboys coach Paul Green is whether Scott and James Tamou, who were magnificent against Cronulla's intimidating pack last weekend, have enough petrol left in the tank.
They will need to produce something similar against a Storm team adept at containing and controlling teams with their gang tackles.
While Thurston and his teammates will be determined to win to earn the chance at the club's first premiership, Smith said the Storm players would be motivated to prove the doubters wrong after being written off as a premiership contender for most of the season.
"In most people, and particularly sportsmen, there is a lot of pride about what we do," Smith told reporters.
"When people start knocking your team or your team's ability, I think you take a bit of offence to that.
"I'm not going out there, and none of the boys are going out there, to do it for anyone other than ourselves and to prove we are a great side that is still capable of being in the big games at the end of the year."
The Storm beat the Cowboys 14-6 in Melbourne in round 25, and will have a fanatical home crowd baying for a repeat tonight. With no AFL games in the city this weekend - both preliminary finals were scheduled for Perth - Smith said he was thrilled the match would be the hottest ticket in town.
"It's great the city has embraced the opportunity that we've got with no AFL in town," he said. "We've had a lot of air time here in the local newspapers and TV.
"The boys are really looking forward to it, but the one thing we do realise is that running out there with a sold-out crowd isn't going to give us a result. It is going to help us ... but ultimately it comes down to our performance."
STORM V COWBOYS
At AAMI Park, 7.30pm
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