JT’s impact finally sinking in as end nears
HE'S an immortal-in-waiting and arguably the greatest halfback ever, but Cowboys great Johnathan Thurston didn't fully comprehend his impact on the game until the final few weeks of his career.
The four-time Dally M medallist has received a stirring send-off ahead of his final game on the Gold Coast on Saturday, with rival clubs handing out tributes after matches.
A sellout crowd watched him say goodbye to his Townsville fans in style with a 44-6 belting of Paramatta last week, which all but ensured he won't finish his stellar career with a wooden spoon.
His swan song at Robina is the first time the Titans have sold out a home game in their 11-year history, with the 35-year-old the headline act.
"The last month or maybe six weeks I've really started to realise the effect I've had on the rugby league community, with the sell out in Townsville and Gold Coast has been sold out since last week," Thurston told Macquarie Sports Radio yesterday.
"It's very humbling so many people come to watch me play.
"Definitely (I'll miss) the talk at the two minute bell, and this year I've really enjoyed when I've been on the bus or driving to the game.
"You get to the stadium and it starts to fill up, these are the people who watch you play week in, week out.
"I was really getting a kick out of seeing that this year, and when you lead the boys out of the tunnel it's show time."
The No. 7 will retire as one of the game's most-decorated players. And while he rates fellow Queensland greats Cameron Smith and Darren Lockyer among his closest friends and mentors, the 35-year-old saves the biggest praise for his uncle Dean Saunders.
Thurston says it was his uncle who led him to Toowoomba rugby league nursery St Mary's College, and also moved with Thurston to Sydney then Townsville as he built his NRL career.
"He was sort of like my guardian angel. He follows me everywhere," a grateful Thurston told the Nine Network's 100% Footy.
"I've got a lot to thank him for. He helped me a lot over the years and has been very close to me."
Thurston visited his Adopt-a-School, Kirwan State School, for the last time yesterday, a partnership which began when he arrived at the club from the Bulldogs 13 years ago.
The school renamed their hall the 'JT Mulitpurpose Hall', with Thurston on hand for the unveiling.
"He has motivated many students, especially young indigenous students, to attend school
regularly and has inspired students to read and write," school principal John Kratzmann said.