• Owens Opinion: JT and Retirement (Supplied)Source: Supplied
Retiring NRL star Johnathan Thurston is just about the perfect person and transcends all parts of society and sports in Australia, says premiership-winning former player and Over the Black Dot co-host Owen Craigie.
By
Owen Craigie

4 Sep 2018 - 10:32 AM  UPDATED 4 Sep 2018 - 10:32 AM

The NRL regular season has drawn to a close and the game of the round this weekend, regardless of ladder position, had to be the Titans hosting the Cowboys. It was sold out, 25,000 and they got to see the King, Johnathan Thurston, end his career.

JT deserves it and has done so much for the game, so much for the community and so much for rugby league.

Win, lose or draw, if you were one of the 25,000 sitting in those seats, you can still sit back in 40 or 50 years and talk about the stories of watching Johnathan Thurston play his last game, a bit like how people talk about Norm Provan and Clivey Churchill.

 

One of a Kind

There’s a number of things that have made JT so special. The first thing is the way he plays the game.

Second is the way he’s held himself, on and off the field.

A third reason is the small things in the game, such as when he kicks the ball. He’s one of probably a handful of players that actually run and kick and then after a kick at goal he runs and hands the tee back to the ball boy and he donates his headgear after every game.

He also does so much more for charities outside of the game that no one speaks about. He’s a family man; he’s just about the perfect person, the perfect rugby league player - JT transcends all parts of society and all sports played in Australia.

The NRL and World Rugby League love people like Johnathan Thurston because they promote the game to wider audiences.

Other codes and other people who watch other sports, they tune into rugby league to watch a person like Johnathan Thurston. He spreads the word of rugby league around the world and he gives them a different audience.

He showcases himself as a professional athlete on and off the field. People love that, sponsors love that, the game loves it, and he ticks all the boxes.

I think the game of rugby league and sport in Australia needed someone like Johnathan Thurston.

I think the game of rugby league and sport in Australia needed someone like Johnathan Thurston.

You look at cricket, you look at the struggles in soccer and all of the other sports such as the Wallabies in rugby union, then you look at rugby league. Not only what he does for that but for sport in the whole country, he just takes it to another level.

 

Living Immortal

And for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, you couldn’t ask for a better role model and you couldn’t ask for someone better to aspire to be like.

All of the young Aboriginal kids and Torres Strait Islander boys and girls, he’s everything. If you don’t want to be Greg Inglis, they all want to be JT. 

I think he was born for it too. He was born to be this person and this person just happened to turn into a superstar and living Immortal.

What he’s done and what he’s achieved, it’s once in a lifetime we see people like JT come around and we’re very blessed and fortunate to witness it.

His character speaks volumes and people said he was too small and he’s too fragile and too skinny and this and that, but at the end of the day, never ever judge a book by its cover. The more people doubted him, the more he’s backed into a corner and the more he shines. He just went out there and backed himself and people underestimated him and look what he’s done

 

So what’s next for Johnathan Thurston?

 

It was great to see him finish his full 80-minute game of football, injury free, and have a perfect night with the boot. A couple of try assists and it was a fitting way for him to farewell the NRL.

From here, I think what JT’s got to offer now, outside the game with the Cowboys and the NRL and rugby league as with world sport and especially in Australia and New Zealand, I think what he’s got to offer next is huge.

Whatever he does, it’ll be enormous, and I just can’t wait to see the next chapter of his career and what he does with that because I know that there’ll be kids all around the country that’ll be willing to sit down and listen to him talk and be part of his next chapter.

 

 

Owen Craigie is a Gamilaroi man and former NRL star. Owen has played for the Newcastle Knights, Wests Tigers and South Sydney Rabbitohs. He is co-host of NITV's weekly Rugby League panel program, Over The Black Dot.

For more Owen Craigie and Rugby League hot topics, tune into Over the Black Dot, live tonight at 8.30pm on NITV (Ch. 34). Join the conversation #OverTheBlackDot