The look of sheer terror on Johnathan Thurston's face said it all.
The NRL champion was in commentary duties for Channel Nine on Thursday night when his co-hosts stitched him up with a brilliant April Fool's Day prank.
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Thurston was standing at the desk with James Bracey and Allana Ferguson preparing to discuss the first half between Penrith and Manly when Bracey suddenly exited stage left.
The lead host pretended he wasn't feeling well and left Thurston and Ferguson in the lurch with just seconds left until they went back on air from a commercial break.
To Thurston's absolute horror it was left up to him to lead the half-time coverage as a producer called 'live'.
“Welcome back to Thursday night footy, we’ve just had a little bit of an accident here with James Bracey not feeling the greatest so I’m taking over,” Thurston said very sheepishly.
“Allana, what a start to the half by the mighty Penrith Panthers.
"They kicked off with Viliame Kikau and the rest and we’ll throw over to Freddy (Brad Fittler) now.”
Thurston thought the coverage would cross to co-commentator Fittler, but a producer told Thurston to keep talking because Fittler wasn't available.
"How about we look at some highlights Allana," he quickly said.
Unbeknownst to Thurston, Ferguson, Fittler and the entire crew were in on the gag.
“Hey JT, April Fool’s baby,” Bracey said as he walked back into the shot.
The former North Queensland Cowboys skipper burst into laughter and was understandably overcome with relief.
“That was a good get, I loved it,” Thurston said.
Bracey said: “We had to pick someone and we’ve had a whole team working on that all week - and you think we’re all mates.
Thurston replied: “I had (a producer) in my ear saying ‘throw to Freddy’ and then ‘Freddy’s not there, get back on camera!’ … man, it was a good get. It was a great get.”
Manly sink to embarrassing new low
The Sea Eagles have sunk to their worst start to a season in both attack and defence after Kikau monstered their defence and powered Penrith to a 46-6 flogging.
A week after pulling off the try-saver of the season to win the game for Penrith against Melbourne, Kikau was at his damaging best in attack at Lottoland.
The second-rower bagged a double on Thursday night, busting through six tackles and putting on two offloads while likely leaving Daly Cherry-Evans having nightmares about tackling him.
Jarome Luai was also superb, dazzling the Sea Eagles' defence with his quick feet and hands as he set up four tries.
The demolition job compounded what had already been a horror start to Manly's season, which is now their worst ever opening month in the club's 74-year history.
Manly's 34 points scored in the opening month is their lowest through four rounds, while the 156 points conceded is also a record worst through the period.
"You always go through tough periods for sure," coach Des Hasler said.
"This is another one. These experiences are certainly going to be part of our recovery.
"There was certainly a bit of miscommunication and disconnect (in defence). We need to address that."
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