There is no doubt that at representative level, Johnathan Thurston’s record is incredible.
You can not deny his impact on Queensland’s historic State Of Origin winning run. Throw in his fantastic record at international level, that now include that elusive World Cup victory, and Thurston has done it all at rep level where the great players really make their mark.
At club level…it might be a different story…
Thurston won a Grand Final with the Canterbury Bulldogs early in his career. Back then there were questions about the wiry young bloke in the headgear. Its is funny to think about now when you look at everything he has achieved. You have to wonder how the Bulldogs could have let such a great player go. It seems to be a bit of a theme for them!
When Thurston moved to the North Queensland Cowboys he took his game to another level. He turned potential into greatness.
As a great halfback, Thurston was the natural leader of the Cowboys. Players have come and gone but with Thurston in the lineup, the Cowboys have always been considered a dangerous team.
Players with the ability of Johnathan Thurston in their lineup are always a premiership threat. We have seen over the years that the games greatest players have been able to drag teams kicking and screaming to Grand Final success.
There is no doubt that Johnathan Thurston is one of the games greatest players…but he has yet to lead a team to Grand Final success.
Does that effect his legacy? When you look at his contemporaries, the likes of Andrew Johns and Darren Lockyer, you have to say that the one thing they were able to do that Thurston has yet to do is lead a team to a Grand Final win.
It is a very touchy subject. You have to keep in mind that posing this question is holding Thurston to the highest of standards. On paper, Thurston has won everything. There is no trophy that he has not held high. That lack of a Grand Final win for HIS North Queensland Cowboys though needs to be acknowledged.
Johnathan Thurston is now the highest paid player in the game. The Penrith Panthers pushed hard to get Thurston’s signature and they were unable to pry him away from the Cowboys. Personally, I think that was the right thing for the game. I believe that it is right for Rugby League that Thurston retires as a North Queensland Cowboy. The Cowboys are his team, and they paid a lot of money to hold onto the biggest star in the clubs history.
Thurston now lines up in 2014 with a huge contract, a new coach, and a pretty good side behind him. It is not like Thurston’t huge contract means the Cowboys go without in other areas. Thurston has a number of other representative players in his team including two World Cup winning front rowers in Matthew Scott and James Tamou.
My feeling is that all of the free passes Thurston has had in the past will not be tolerated any more. I believe that Thurston now has to lead his team to success as every other great player we rate him alongside has done.
Those bad seasons where the Cowboys just don’t seem to fire for what ever reason will now be heavily scrutinized. Thurston can’t allow the Cowboys to be slow out of the gate or to come into the finals with a wet sail.
As we all know, the Cowboys have been very unlucky in recent season when bad calls cost them finals games. Hopefully that is a driving force for the entire North Queensland Cowboys club from now on.
The pressure is on Thurston, but he needs his big name team mates to step up too. He needs the club to put in throughout the entire season and allow him to carry them to Grand Final success.
Thurston is the type of player that keeps a club in the race. Even now, you wouldn’t find a single person that would be willing to write off the Cowboys simply because of Thurston’s unquestioned ability.
He needs to lead them to a title though. That would be the standard he will be setting for himself, and as someone that loves Rugby League history, it is the standard I am looking for out of him as well.
Most of the games greats lead their team to Grand Final success. Think about the players you consider to be the best of all time….how many of them were not the leading star in a Grand Final winning side?
I hope that Thurston gets his opportunity. It would cap off a career that is nothing short of outstanding. As I said earlier in this article, we are talking about the cutting edge of greatness here. We are talking about one of the modern day greats tacking off the very last box he needs to be able to say “I did it all”.
What a position to be in. What a player. What an incredible moment in the games history if we are able to witness that happen.
Over to you JT…