|Thurston in 2007|
|Full name||Johnathan Dean Thurston|
25 April 1983 |
Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
|Height||179 cm (5 ft 10 in)|
|Weight||86 kg (14 st)|
|2010–13||Indigenous All Stars||4||0||9||0||18|
Johnathan Dean Thurston (born 25 April 1983 in Brisbane, Queensland) is an Australian professional rugby league footballer and co-captain of National Rugby League (NRL) team, the North Queensland Cowboys. During his NRL career he has frequently been cited as rugby league's best player. An Australian international and Queensland State of Origin representative half-back and goal-kicker, Thurston is also a two-time Dally M Medal and one-time Wally Lewis Medal winner. Thurston started his career at the Bulldogs where he won the 2004 NRL premiership before moving to the North Queensland Cowboys in 2005, playing in that year's grand final. In 2008 he was named as halfback of the Australian Aboriginal rugby league team of the century. In 2011, he won the Golden Boot Award for the World's best player. Thurston is the only player to have played in all 27 games of Queensland's eight-year State of Origin winning streak from 2006–2013.
Of Indigenous Australian descent, Johnathan Thurston was born in Brisbane and began playing rugby league at a very young age for Souths Sunnybank RLFC in Brisbane's southside. Later during his youth he moved to Toowoomba where he attended St. Mary's College, playing rugby league for his school and the Toowoomba Rugby League's All Whites club. Although a stand-out player at school and club level at 18 years of age, none of the National Rugby League clubs were willing to sign the Queenslander, with many citing his small size as a problem. According to Thurston's manager Sam Ayoub, a number of the clubs were not even willing to take him for free. Only St George Illawarra Dragons coach Nathan Brown was willing to sign him but because he was going to play for nothing. Ultimately Ayoub negotiated with the Bulldogs to sign him as he had promised Thurston's mother he would keep an eye on him, and Belmore (the Bulldogs' home ground) was closer to where he lived.
Professional playing career
The Bulldogs signed Thurston in the 2001 season for 'nil playing fee'. Once Thurston had the opportunity he was selected for the Queensland U-19 side that year. The following year Thurston's dream became a reality as made his debut in the National Rugby League during Round 13 of the 2002 season (the season the Bulldogs breached the salary cap), coming off the bench for the Bulldogs against the Penrith Panthers. As a specialist in the halves Thurston was stuck in the shadow of star Bulldogs halves pairing Brent Sherwin and Braith Anasta and many of his critics still believed he was still too small in stature to be competitive in the NRL.
Although Thurston never cemented a starting position and only took part in 29 matches throughout three seasons at the Bulldogs, in his final year in 2004, he was part of the Premiership-winning side, coming off the bench in the Bulldogs 16 – 13 win over the Sydney Roosters in the 2004 NRL grand final. Thurston wore jersey #18 for the match as he had been a late inclusion for regular captain Steve Price who in the lead up to the match was ruled out with a knee injury. As Price had initially housed and mentored him upon his arrival in Sydney, Thurston offered his premiership ring to Steve Price as a thank you in which price refused to accept. Towards the end of the season it was announced 2004 would be his final year for the Sydney club as he was signed by the North Queensland Cowboys for the 2005 NRL season.
Thurston's return to Queensland proved to be a major turning point in his career; he became the starting halfback for the Cowboys, and his consistency earned him his first Queensland State of Origin jersey. In his first match he was voted Player's Player after being in the top 4 tacklers and kicking an amazing field goal to force the game into extra time. At a club level Thurston was awarded the Halfback of the Year award and the prestigious Dally M Medal as the 2005 NRL season's Player of the Year. Helping North Queensland to the 2005 NRL grand final, the first for the club. The Cowboys lost 30–16 to the Wests Tigers, ending Thurston's chance of winning two consecutive Grand Finals.
In 2006 Thurston was instrumental in Queensland's State of Origin Series win as the Maroons recovered from defeat in the first game to take the 2006 series 2–1. Thurston recovered from a dislocated knee at the end of the regular NRL season to make the Australian squad for the 2006 Tri-Nations tournament. He was chosen to play halfback for the first and second games against New Zealand where he played excellent football and was rewarded 'Man of Match' honours for the first game. Despite losing the jumper to Ben Hornby for the first game against Great Britain he returned for the 2nd game against Great Britain and kept his place for the final. In this match, with the scores locked at 12–12 and the game into its 2nd half of golden point extra time, a trade-mark Thurston break allowed him to set Darren Lockyer up for the series-winning try for The Kangaroos finishing his year on a high note.
As Thurston entered his third year with the Cowboys in 2007, he was appointed the Captain of the team following the retirement of Travis Norton. Thurston was selected to play for the Australian national team at halfback in the 2007 ANZAC Test match against New Zealand, kicking 5 goals from 6 attempts in the Kangaroos' 30-6 victory. He was named 'Man of the Match' for his performance in Queensland's victory in Game One of the 2007 State of Origin series. He led well as captain for the Cowboys and the team improved dramatically from the previous year to finish a strong third place on the ladder by the end of the regular season. Unfortunately they fell one game short of the club's second Grand Final appearance losing to the second-placed Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles in what was otherwise a successful year. Individually, Thurston was brilliant yet again, and in September he won the Halfback of the Year and the Dally M Medal Player of the Year Award for the second time in three years, narrowly edging out Wests Tigers' Robbie Farah due to his strong performances in the final rounds of the regular season.
At the conclusion of the season it was reported Thurston would require major shoulder surgery due to ongoing physical damage to his ligaments. He underwent two shoulder reconstructions. He was supposed to make a return for the Cowboys in Round 5 of the 2008 NRL season following his off-season surgery, but made a surprise return in Round 1. In the deciding match of the 2008 State of Origin series, Thurston set up a try for Billy Slater which would ultimately win the game. Thurston was also named the Wally Lewis Player of the Series. Thurston would not replicate the previous year's successes in 2008, as the Cowboys seemed to lose all of their exciting spark that saw them renovate the club's reputation in recent years. Three wins at the start of the year held promise, but after a record-breaking 15-match losing streak, all hope faded.
In August 2008, Thurston was named in the Australia training squad for the 2008 Rugby League World Cup, and in October 2008 he was confirmed in the final 24-man Australia squad. In Australia's first match of the tournament, Thurston, despite mourning the murder of his uncle in a Brisbane park less than 38 hours prior, put in a strong performance to be named man-of-the-match in the Kangaroos win over the Kiwis.
In April 2009, he was named in the preliminary 25 man squad to represent Queensland in the 2009 State of Origin series' opening match, and was subsequently picked at halfback for the opening State of Origin match on 3 June. He went on to play in game two, which Queensland won, making history as the first side to win four consecutive series. He played in the third match as well, which Queensland lost. This year also saw Thurston the front runner for his third Dally M 'Player of the Year' Award, only to be surpassed in the points tally by a wonderful late season run by Jarryd Hayne from the Parramatta Eels. Although missing out marginally on the top accolade Thurston had still maintained enough points to be named 'Halfback of the Year'.
After the NRL season had ended, Thurston kicked seven goals from as many attempts as the Prime Minister’s team defeated Papua New Guinea 42–18 in Port Moresby. He travelled with the Australian national team to Europe for the 2009 Four Nations tournament and was man-of-the-match in the Kangaroos' victory over England in the final in addition to being the tournament's top point-scorer.
In the 2010 pre-season, Thurston was named man-of-the-match for his performance in the inaugural NRL All Stars game awards. A shoulder injury early in the season put him on the sideline for the 2010 ANZAC Test.
He was to be named man-of-the-match in Queensland's victory in Game I of the 2010 State of Origin series (giving him a total of three Origin man-of-the-match awards) an individual performance which made headlines referring to him as being Queensland's Greatest Halfback and with ex-players from both sides of the border making comments on his performance rivalling that of Andrew Johns' in 2005.
During a match against Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles, he was found guilty of swearing at the referee 8 times (something not common in Thurston's game) in regards to a forward pass decision against the Cowboys which aided in Manly winning 24-20.
Thurston played at halfback in Australia's victory in the 2011 ANZAC Test. He suffered what at first appeared to be a horrific ACL injury, in the second half of the Game III in the 2011 State of Origin series. Thurston, who had to be driven off the field on the Medi-Cab initially feared he would be out for the rest of the season, however early prognosis claimed that with immediate surgery, he could be back by Round 25, and in time for a possible Cowboys finals appearance. At the time of his injury, Thurston was leading the Dally M Medal ladder by two clear man-of-the-match performances (six points ahead of nearest rival Kieran Foran). After having scans the following day it was discovered that Thurston would miss 5–6 weeks and would have to wear a leg brace after the scans showed he had suffered a grade two medial ligament damage but would not require surgery. This was the 21st consecutive Origin match played by Thurston since his debut in Game I 2005, breaking one of his teammates' records in Cameron Smith who played 19 consecutive Origins from his debut in Game III 2003.
Post-season Thurston travelled with the Australian national team to England for the 2011 Four Nations tournament, where he starred in all four games for Australia. He picked up man of the match honours on three occasions whilst in the U.K, including the final in which Australia won 30-8. He tallied 52 points during the tournament, scoring 3 tries and converting 22 goals from 25 attempts. He was rewarded for a fantastic 2011 season with the Golden Boot Award.
In the 2012 ANZAC Test as Australia's five-eighth,Thurston scored a try and kicked four goals from four attempts, being named man-of-the-match. At the 2012 Dally M Awards Thurston was named the NRL's five-eighth of the year.
Thurston played for Australia at five-eighth in the 2013 ANZAC Test victory against New Zealand. Thurston was Queensland's five-eighth in the 2013 State of Origin series, in whose third and deciding game he scored a try and kicked two goals, helping the Maroons extend their record to eight consecutive series victories. He also led the Cowboys alongside Bowen and Tate to the 2013 finals with a miracle run of 6 consecutive wins. However the Cowboys were knocked out in the first week in a controversial match against the Cronulla Sharks. In this match, a seventh tackle try was awarded to Sharks player Beau Ryan, making the end result 20-18. In a later interview, Thurston then claimed there was some conspiracy in the NRL that they wanted an all Sydney Grand Final.
Thurston joined the Australian squad that traveled to Europe and won the 2013 Rugby League World Cup. He was named the final's man-of-the-match, his fourth such award of the tournament. He also broke the 31-year-old record of Mick Cronin, passing the record of 309 Test points for the Kangaroos.
In January 2014 Thurston was announced as 2013's Golden Boot Award winner following his prominence in Australia's World Cup and Queensland's State of Origin successes. It was his second Golden Boot in three years.
Achievements and accolades
Dally M Player of the Year: 2005, 2007
Dally M Halfback of the Year: 2005, 2007, 2009
Dally M Five-Eighth of the Year: 2012 and 2013]] North Queensland Cowboys Player of the Year: 2005, 2012
Wally Lewis Medal (State of Origin player of the series): 2008
Preston Campbell Medal (Man of the Match in the 2010 NRL All Stars Game): 2010
RLIF International Back of the Year: 2007
RLIF Halfback of the Year: 2009
RLIF Halfback of the Year: 2011
State of Origin Man of the Match: 4 Awards
Golden Boot Award: 2011
Golden Boot Award: 2013
,,, Rugby League player of the series in 2013 World cup with 4 man of the Match Awards in the 4 games he played In August, 2008, Thurston was named at half-back in the Indigenous Team of the Century.
Johnathan Thurston has not missed a State of Origin match since making his debut in Game I, 2005. He is the only player to feature in every single match of Queensland's ongoing run of eight consecutive State of Origin series victories.
|2005||North Queensland Cowboys||26||-||5||28/36||77.78||2||78|
|2006||North Queensland Cowboys||17||-||11||49/63||77.78||-||142|
|2007||North Queensland Cowboys||25||-||10||78/97||80.41||-||196|
|2008||North Queensland Cowboys||17||-||4||39/50||78.00||-||94|
|2009||North Queensland Cowboys||23||-||12||79/99||79.80||-||202|
|2010||North Queensland Cowboys||17||-||2||43/50||86.00||1||95|
|2011||North Queensland Cowboys||19||-||10||61/79||77.22||-||162|
|2012||North Queensland Cowboys||24||-||3||90/109||82.57||-||192|
|2013||North Queensland Cowboys||12||-||-||29/44||65.91||-||58|
He was one of Cleo magazine's 50 Most Eligible Bachelors for 2006. On the early hours of Saturday 25 October 2008, Richard Saunders, the uncle of Johnathan Thurston was allegedly bashed by nine people. Mr Saunders, 38, and two other friends were assaulted. Mr Saunders died later in hospital.
Since 2008, Johnathan has been in a relationship with Samantha Lynch and in June 2013, the couple welcomed their first child together; a daughter they named Frankie Louise Thurston.
In late 2005, Thurston was one of 13 NRL players who posed for the League of Their Own 2006 calendar that was produced in the style of the Dieux du Stade calendars to raise money for the Koori Kids foundation. Thurston was chosen to appear on the cover of the calendar. He has also worked with the Indigenous communities of North Queensland and the Australian Red Cross Blood Service. Also one of the only players in the NRL to hand the kicking tee back to the junior who brought it out for him.
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