Life after footy: JT on date nights, daughters and dreams
He is a rugby league legend who could send a stadium filled with tens of thousands of fans into a frenzy with a kick of a ball.
Yet Johnathan Thurston is most proud of what he does off the field: being a family man.
"Being a parent changes everyone in every way," Thurston says.
"A lot of different people have a lot of different journeys to starting a family, and ours was a tough one.
"Once you start a family, it is rewarding and challenging at the same time. It is good fun but of course it takes a lot of energy and patience to raise children.
"There is nothing more important to me than being the best husband and father that I can be."
Thurston and his wife Samantha are parents to four children - Frankie, Charlie, Lillie and Remie - aged between seven and one.
"My children are never still. They're bananas," he told the Townsville Eye with that infectious laugh he is known for.
"It's non-stop in our house. The kids have plenty of activities to keep them active, be it horse riding, swimming, nippers or dance.
"They are always in the pool, having a great time. I love watching them grow, interact with each other."
And the Thurstons have recently achieved the holy grail of parenting: their children are sleeping through the night.
The pair is even able to go on "date lunches" and "date night dinner".
Thurston, 37, says he and Samantha make sure they make time for each other.
"We are lucky we have a good support network up here, which helps Sam and I to sneak away for a couple of hours for a date lunch, and now the girls are sleeping through, a date dinner," he explains.
Thurston is sharing with the Townsville Eye how life has panned out after he hung up his boots on a stellar rugby league career that saw him being named one of the greats of the game and the so-called "king of the north".
Thurston's willingness to give is as legendary as his sporting prowess.
The four-time Dally M Medallist, and proud Gunggari man, is determined to use his fame to help others.
When the Eye caught up with Thurston, just before the unveiling of his bronze statue outside the Queensland Country Bank Stadium, the pride in his voice when he talks about the Johnathan Thurston Academy is clear.
"The academy is now two years old and the difference we have made over such a short time has blown me away," Thurston explains.
"I'm extremely proud of the team I have got working for me, they continue to amaze me every day with the work that is being done, and what we are trying to achieve.
"We still have a lot of work ahead of us, especially with the school programs we are running. We want to make sure the kids are growing to their full potential, and to provide opportunities and a platform for them to be the best they can be."
The academy was established in February 2018 and aims to be a leading national provider of employment initiatives and training programs aimed at health, wellbeing, sport and education.
The academy's strength is developing and delivering programs to individuals, equipping them with the right skills, knowledge and attributes to make a significant and positive future impact.
Through education, community and industry partnerships, the academy supports people to reach their personal, educational and career goals.
Last year Thurston received his most prestigious award yet with an appointment to the Order of Australia.
"I now understand the impact that rugby league has and I started having that impact on people, especially young kids, and I don't take that for granted," Thurston says.
"Especially with the indigenous kids and being a role model to them, I really try to show them that they can do anything; my focus is on education and getting kids educated because that can open up their future.
"It's not just about getting kids to school but keeping them there so they can learn."
Thurston's work post rugby league as an ambassador for various indigenous organisations as well as the Johnathan Thurston Academy, has formed a big part of his recognition in last year's Queen's Birthday Honours List.
Thurston was named a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) Medal for his significant service to rugby league and as a role model.
Even for a man with a long list of accolades, this is big.
"It's a huge honour; you don't go out to achieve those types of things, you play footy because you love playing footy and things that come with it are a bonus," Thurston says.
"Once you start getting older you start to understand the impact that footy has and that you can have individually on the community."
Thurston admits to finding the work-life-home balance a challenge at times.
Post rugby league, he has been busier than ever.
Besides a full schedule working on community-focused programs, Thurston is a shareholder in Collings Aviation Holdings, which operates regional airline Skytrans, and is a board member of Tourism and Events Queensland.
He also has a Channel 9 sports commentary contract.
"This year I want to get that home-work-life balance a bit better than last year," he says. "Life after football is a lot more busy than I ever imagined.
"That was quite a shock for my first year out. But saying that it was a good busy."
Thurston says he is grateful for the opportunities that have been offered to him.
"I felt I couldn't say no, so that was good in that regard," he says. "I have been really comfortable about how the first year out of the game went.
"But I will continue to get that work -life-home balance a bit better.
"Last year was just a whirlwind really."
Thurston came on board with solar company Instyle Solar as its first official ambassador late last year.
The multi-year partnership will see Thurston share his own journey of living with solar via a series of online content.
He says partnering with Instyle Solar was a "no-brainer" and the perfect fit for him and his family.
"Firstly, every little bit helps when it comes to protecting the environment.
"Secondly, we have six people living in our house and our energy usage is considerable," Thurston says. "It makes sense to be responsible and save money where and when we can.
"What we save on our electricity bill because of the solar is amazing.
"In the North, we're in a prime position to take advantage of the beautiful and sunny climate, so working with a company like Instyle Solar was something I've been interested in doing for some time, and a great opportunity to hopefully lead by example."
The Thurston family have 32 solar panels atop their Townsville home.
"I really do believe every bit helps when it comes to the environment, and adding solar power to your home or business can make a big difference," he says. "We, as a family, are climate conscious.
"With four young children, we try to lower our carbon footprint and do our part.
"The children are very aware of their environment and very aware that we need to look after it.
"When we go down the beach, Frankie and the girls are forever picking up plastic and I'm putting it in the bins or putting it in my pockets. Just simple things like that.
"Sam and I tell them the plastic can get stuck in the turtles or in other marine life.
"They obviously hear things from school as well about being environmentally aware."
Thurston's love of Townsville didn't happen overnight but when it did happen it was sealed.
He moved to Townsville in 2005, as a 25-year-old.
"When I first moved to Townsville, I didn't think that when I would retire from football that I would stay," he says.
"When I first moved here I didn't think I'd be here for that long to start with. And then the longer I stayed the more I fell in love with Townsville.
"I always thought I would move back to Sydney because that is where I thought the opportunities would be for me.
"But I have been given the same opportunities living in Townsville as well.
"Sure it means a bit more time away from home, which isn't as great, but that is the sacrifice I make to live in such a beautiful city."
Thurston doesn't hold back when describing what Townsville means to him.
"I'm here for the rest of my life," he says. "The people are great, it's a great place to raise children.
"The community really gets behind each other, as witnessed in last year's floods."
Thurston is also grateful how respectful the Townsville community is of his family.
"When my family is at the park or the beach, or going for a walk, when we are out as a family, the community is respectful of that and let us have that family time," he says.
"Kids do come up and say hello and ask for a photo, and that is fine."