Johnathan Thurston’s State of Origin swansong is about to begin but it seems Queensland aren’t ready to say goodbye just yet.

Maroons backrower Gavin Cooper admitted it was hard to win a series without the veteran playmaker and claimed Thurston’s heir apparent Anthony Milford was “no JT”.

Thurston will officially start his Origin farewell series in Wednesday night’s must-win game two in Sydney after returning from a shoulder injury that ruled him out of the Maroons’ record 28-4 opening loss.

Thurston will retire from representative footy following the 2017 World Cup.

Cooper said it showed just how much Thurston would be missed after Milford stepped up for the injured playmaker in game one.

“It’s tough to win a series without him,” Cooper said of Thurston.

“Milf is a special player but he’s no JT.

“It was big shoes to fill and he can do a good job but in my eyes he’s still no JT.”

The shoulder injury brought an abrupt end to Thurston’s record of 36 straight Origins.

The Maroons suffered their heaviest Origin loss at Suncorp Stadium in his absence.

Now back to full fitness, Thurston and fellow returning veteran Billy Slater have made an immediate impact at Queensland’s Gold Coast camp, Maroons bench utility Michael Morgan said.

“They probably bring a calmness to other players,” he said.

“Billy’s talk from the back defensively is great and JT’s talk and organisation when we’ve got the ball is really good too.

“They’re two players that have been here for a long time so they’re clear with their role and clear enough to help the players around them as well because they know their job so well.

“Their talk, organisation and calmness they bring to the group is really good.”

© AAP 2017

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