In no way am I trying to disrespect Johnathan Thurston, a future immortal, but I think Penrith have got lucky with his decision to stay in North Queensland.
At his best, Johnathan Thurston was a phenomenon of a player. He was everything you want in a halve. He had a great passing game, kicking game, running game, was a great support player and he played with incredible passion and desire.
The problem is he is not that player anymore. Like every great ball player throughout the history of the game, he has had to deal with numerous abhorrent cheap shots off the ball and is the man every forward pack target when the opposition has the ball.
This has lead to incredible wear and tear on his body. He no longer has the burst of acceleration that meant he could separate himself from defenders.
If you take in to account the fact that, like all Queenslanders, he is 100% committed to State of Origin and is the only player to play in every game of Queensland’s Origin dynasty since 2006 and the massive salary that he would have commanded then Penrith would have been crazy to commit to him long-term.
Thurston would have been a great marketing tool for the Panthers but this is now 2014 not 2006. I am not saying he is finished but he is edging ever close to the end.
Would Penrith have been able to sign Jamal Idris if Thurston’s salary was eating away at the cap? Would they have been able to commit to Dean Whare, a player, in my opinion, that will become one of the best centres in the NRL in the next couple of years.
The Panthers have been regarded as something of a laughing stock since their Premiership win in 2003 and if they had signed Thurston and it didn’t work out then it would only reinforce that opinion.
I would go as far as to say it would have been irresponsible to sign Thurston to such a lucrative contract at this stage of his career.
I think the Panthers will actually benefit from having Jamie Soward as the man that takes them forward. He is on a smaller deal and, while he is an inferior player to Thurston, his skills are obvious. His kicking game and support play really stand out. He won’t have to be the man that creates everything because the Panthers have players that can create for themselves, Jamal Idris, Dean Whare and James Segeyaro.
After such a long time in the wilderness the Panthers future might just be bright.
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