The game of rugby league and its supporters just about owe Johnathan Thurston everything.
If you’re looking at the Indigenous side of things, he’s endorsed and promoted Aboriginal health and culture and education all through his career. If you look at what he does for the North Queensland Cowboys and no players wanting to go to the club in the early days, now every rugby league player in the world wants to go there because of Johnathan Thurston.
He’s given back to his people, his culture, he’s given back to the game tenfold.
Look what he does in the State of Origin and for Australia. For the game, they always say that no one’s bigger than the game, but if there’s any player that’s gonna challenge that it would be definitely JT because every kid in Australia or in the world that plays rugby league wants to be Thurston. And if he can give these young kids, boys and girls something to dream about, well he’s done his deed.
He’s given back to his people, his culture, he’s given back to the game tenfold, but I suppose when you have kids growin up all over the world that are less fortunate but want to do things in life, he’s given them the ammunition to start dreaming big because a little skinny boy from Toowoomba has proven the world wrong and he’s come away with four Dally M Medals and four Golden Boots.
When I saw the injury during last week’s State of Origin game, I just thought ‘He may have done something here’, but over the years we’ve seen him get injuries and bounce back the week after.
He’s the greatest of all time for a reason.
You didn’t really think too much into it. But now that he’s gone for the season, he’s got to have an operation, he’s just opened the flood gates now. Origin - you don’t know, you just can’t pick it. You just don’t know now.
The word is he’ll never play rep footy again because of that injury and having said previously he would’ve finished on the rep stage after this year’s World Cup.
They’re probably right there, but you don’t underestimate the greatest rugby league player of all time.
He’s the greatest of all time for a reason.
If it was anyone else that had done the injury, they would have retired many years ago but we’re talkin about JT here. He’s a bloke that can play at 60, 70 per cent. He doesn’t have to be 100 per cent and he’s proven that over the years and that’s why he’s got four Dally Ms and four Golden Boots and so many Origins and Test matches and a premiership.
He’s not your average footballer - he’s your greatest rugby league player of all time.
JT does things that no other player can do but JT’s style of football changes the way people attack and defend. So if anyone’s going to bounce back and do it, it’s him.
Me personally, I honestly believe that he’ll come back and play in the World Cup.
There’s no way in the world an elite athlete and the greatest rugby league player of all time’s going to go out on this note. No way, he doesn’t deserve to go out like this. He’ll bounce back, he will play World Cup rugby league.
"I’ve played against JT in his early days but what Johnathan Thurston does, no other player can do it."
Why Thurston is so special just comes down to when people become good players and all of a sudden they become great players.
Then all of a sudden those great players become living legends while they’re still playing and then eventually they become Immortals.
The thing about Johnathan Thurston is this: I’ve played with Andrew Johns, I’ve won a premiership with Andrew Johns. I’ve played against JT in his early days but what Johnathan Thurston does, no other player can do it.
And his qualities, it’s like he’s got the ball on a string, it’s an old cliché, but his passing game and his kicking game is probably the greatest we’re ever going to see and the way that he takes the ball to the line and puts his body on the line week-in and week-out at every level of football is unbelievable.
But his anticipation and his decisions at the right time and the right place is so good. And on top of that, to seal the whole thing, is his kicking game.
He kicks for tries and his kicks for goal is unbelievable, it’s like a boomerang - he makes it spin and it’s unheard of the way he kicks the ball.
A lot of people underestimated him in the early days because he was only skinny, but he had the skill and back in the day he had the best show-and-go. Going to the Cowboys, he’s just made that club an international household name now.
So where does JT sit in the greater scheme of things in rugby league?
Well, he’ll be an Immortal, he’ll be a living legend and your many, many generations to come will all have stories around the kitchen table and barbecues of how this young Aboriginal boy from Queensland turned rugby league on its head and changed the game forever.
To hear more from Owen Craigie and for all of your rugby league news, tune in to Over the Black Dot on NITV at 9.30pm each Wednesday, or On Demand.