Johnathan Thurston is a Maroon legend. Images courtesy of: thecouriermail.com.au
At the back end of his career, Johnathan Thurston is still playing like he was when he debuted for the Canterbury Bulldogs way back in 2002. Born in Brisbane, JT found it hard to find any NRL club to begin with. Signing with the Bulldogs for a 'nil playing fee’ in 2001, he quickly began to prove his worth, making the Queensland U-19 side that year. Playing in the shadows of front line halves Brent Sherwin and Braith Anasta, Thurston found it hard to cement a spot. But after winning the 2004 Grand Final with the Doggies, he decided to move to the North Queensland Cowboys, a move that would shape him into the legend we know today.
2005 was a big year for JT. He made his State of Origin debut, won both Halfback of the Year Award and Dally M Player of the Year, and took the Cowboys to the Grand Final, which they eventually lost to Wests Tigers 30-16. For someone who was only in his early 20’s, JT showed the class and maturity of a seasoned veteran. Judged by many as too small for the NRL, he proved that he can handle the physicality of the top grade, constantly posting big numbers in the tackling department.
In 2006, Thurston was a key player in what was to become the start of Queensland's Origin Dynasty. Spearheaded by Darren Lockyer, Steve Price and Petero Civoniceva, JT added the spark that had been missing the previous three years. All along, Thurston has continued to improve and Queensland has reaped the benefits. Eight years running and JT has only lost 9 games to the Blues. Alongside future Immortals of Cam Smith, Billy Slater and Greg Inglis, Thurston has created a winning culture in the Sunshine State. His partnership with Darren Lockyer was something people will talk about for generations. The recent switch of JT to five-eighth to accommodate the inclusion of halfback Cooper Cronk shows how good a player he really is.
A good player usually has one strong suit - be it a kicking game or a running game. A great player has all of that and more. JT is one of those great players. His running game is outstanding, his kicking game superb and his defence is always top-notch. Sometimes it is as if he has the ball on a string and can see the play evolving even before it unfolds. This is an attribute Origin's greatest player Wally Lewis had in spades.
Needing just four more points to surpass the great Mal Meninga for most points at Origin level, Thurston will go down in the record books in more ways than one. The ever-reliable and certainly durable, JT, makes his 28th straight Origin appearance at Suncorp Stadium on Wednesday night. Like a number of players in this Maroon dynasty, Thurston is in the latter stages of an illustrious career - one which has left an indelible mark in rugby league history.