Thurston’s shot at NRL immortality
As the North Queensland Cowboys prepare to face the Brisbane Broncos there’s a lot more at stake than just a maiden premiership for the Townsville club. Talented pivot Johnathan Thurston has a chance to check the last box in his quest for greatness and, you would think, put one foot through the door to becoming an immortal.
Of course the now four-time Dally M award winner has already won a premiership with the Bulldogs in 2004, where he came off the bench in the grand final, but to do it with his beloved Cowboys would mean so much more.
A lot has changed in the decade and a bit since that day. Thurston has since gone on to become one of the greatest in the modern era – dominant in the NRL, an automatic starter for the Kangaroos and one of the lynchpins upon which Queensland’s unprecedented State of Origin success has been built.
While the Cowboys may not have produced as many superstars as other teams they’re always competitive and have provided Thurston with the perfect scene to make his transition from talented youngster to living legend. A win on Sunday would be sweet for the Townville club, particularly when you consider the controversial nature in which they have exited the final’s race in previous years.
It’s not going to be easy, though. The Broncos are a premiership-worthy team. Wayne Bennett has worked his magic again and turned a team bursting with potential into the side that is probably the favourites to take out of the title. With a fierce pack, talented young half pairing, solid fullback experience in Darius Boyd and speed to burn on both the sides of the ruck the Broncos are going to be tough to beat.
Cowboys have weapons of their own with Australian forwards Matt Scott and James Tamou providing size, Michael Morgan a good foil to work off and Lachlan Coote providing exciting attacking options through the middle, but you do feel that if the Cowboys are to get over the line ultimately it will be on the shoulders of Thurston.
If Thurston can get the job done on Sunday it will all but assure his status as an immortal. Several players in the current Queensland crop will seemingly merit inclusion in Rugby League’s esteemed group of immortals eventually.
You certainly can’t argue against the inclusion of Cameron Smith, Greg Inglis or Billy Slater and the one thing standing against Thurston his lack of premiership success with the Cowboys. But if he picks up the big prize on Sunday one thing is for sure. When he finally hangs up his boots, immortal status will be a given.