North Queensland and Canterbury confirmed just how valuable their respective stars are on Saturday night, with Cowboys maestro Thurston guiding his team to a 24-12 win over the Ben Barba-less Bulldogs.
The off-contract Thurston took no time showing why he's the most sought-after man in the NRL, setting up three tries in a master-class performance, the first inside the opening 60 seconds of the Cowboys' season in Gosford.
Canterbury were without seven players from last year's grand final-qualifying team but it was no surprise the most significant absentee was Barba, who is out of the game indefinitely as he battles personal issues.
The Bulldogs soldiered on without forwards James Graham (suspended), Sam Kasiano and Frank Pritchard (both injured), but sorely missed the match-turning ability of Barba and the confidence he brings the team.
Last year, the Bulldogs rolled over the top of teams like an unstoppable machine.
But without Barba, their error rate was high and they took poor options at the crucial moments.
That's not to say Barba's replacement at fullback Drury Low wasn't impressive, and that the 'Dogs aren't capable of shaking off early season rust.
For the Cowboys, it might only be round one, but beating last year's grand finalists away from home in Gosford was an encouraging sign for a side many believe capable of delivering the club its first premiership.
It's not as if Cowboys officials needed reminding of how crucial Thurston is to their organisation, but the way the Queensland five-eighth ran the show on Saturday made it abundantly clear they must throw everything into keeping their skipper.
Thurston is being chased by a number of Sydney clubs including Penrith.
A Thurston bomb delivered Ashley Graham a first-minute try, when Bulldogs winger Steve Turner fumbled.
However, the Bulldogs rode their luck with some fortunate deflections and Josh Reynolds and Turner gave them a 12-4 lead.
The advantage was short-lived, as Thurston put tries on a platter for Gavin Cooper and Antonio Winterstein for an 18-12 halftime scoreline.
Try-scoring specialist Graham completed a double in the 59th minute from a Matt Bowen cut-out pass, and some resilient goal-line defence ensured a 12-point lead was enough.
Earlier, the Hayne Plane was in full service and the smile back on Chris Sandow's face as Parramatta started putting their 2012 wooden spoon behind them with a 40-10 thumping of the Warriors.
New Eels coach Ricky Stuart had declared his star pair had to shine for his side to be any chance, and no-one sparkled brighter than the much maligned duo - Jarryd Hayne scoring a hat-trick of tries and Sandow piling on 16 points.
"We need those two people to play well every week," Stuart said.
"I said it to (assistant coach) Dean Pay... 'if Chris Sandow and Jarryd Hayne play well today we're going to be a big hope'.
"They're two very important players...and they were both very, very good today.
"Jarryd didn't get a lot of footy last year but Chrissy had a lot of negativity in his life last year and I'm just happy to see Chrissy enjoy his game of footy.
"I said when I first got here I want to put a smile back on Chrissy Sandow's face again ... I think tonight you saw that."
But happy as he was, Stuart was quick to preach caution.
Remember, this was a side humiliated 41-4 by Wests Tigers in a trial match last month.
The win was set up by three unanswered first half tries, but it was the resolve in holding off a Warriors fightback which really pleased Stuart.
Two tries in quick succession to Jacob Lillyman and Dane Nielsen - the second just moment after Sandow had been denied a four-pointer with a controversial obstruction ruling - had the Warriors back in the game at 18-10.
But up stepped Hayne, earning his side a repeat set which led to a Ken Sio four-pointer before showing brilliant support play to grab a quick double of his own to settle the issue.
"This time last year when that try was disallowed by Chrissy in the second half and they came back and scored off that next set of six, we would have folded," Stuart said.
"... we put our foot on their throat.
"But we (only) started today. This is not the end and I promise you there'll be some dark days. This will be a long, long journey."
Not as long as the one new Warriors coach Matthew Elliott appears to be embarking on, his side's cause not helped by the loss of Manu Vatuvei to an ankle injury early in the game.
"If I got bogged down in one performance we'd be in a fair bit of strife, (but) I'm not going to ignore it that's for sure," Elliott said.
"I thought we got too easily distracted, almost like we were more concerned with the scoreboard than what was going on in front of us.
"None of those things are life-threatening."