An NRL legend has farewelled the field he called home, the fans who have cheered him on for more than a decade and the teammates with who he has forged the strongest of bonds.
North Queensland Cowboys joint captain Johnathan Thurston played his final home game in Townsville tonight and his teammates put on a stellar performance to honour their leader.
The result of the Cowboys game against Parramatta was never in doubt, the Cowboys put 38 unanswered points on the board in the first 45 minutes of the game.
North Queensland Cowboys joint captain Johnathan Thurston played his final home game in Townsville tonight and ran out with his daughters Frankie Louise and Charlie Grace (pictured)
Ultimately winning 44 points to 6 and avoided taking home the wooden spoon in Thurston’s final season.
By the game’s end Thurston had converted seven tries from seven kicks as well as slotting a penalty goal to put on 16 points in front of his home crowd for the final time.
It was as if the Cowboys had something extra to play for, and they did, their fearless leader and arguably the heart and soul of the Cowboys club was playing in Townsville for the last time.
The brilliance of Thurston as a rugby league player were still on display as his retirement looms, with just one more game left after Friday.
After the game he held his composure to talk about his career with the Cowboys and having to hang up the boots.
Thurston ran out onto the field with his two daughters and said family meant everything to him (pictured with wife Samantha Lynch)
Thurston helped bring Townsville its first ever NRL Premiership along with is team mates in 2015 (pictured)
‘It’s been in incredible journey and I loved every moment of it, getting to pull this jersey on and lead these boys out for the last 10-11 years has been something special,’ he said.
‘I’m pretty emotional so I will try not to think about it too much.’
Thurston also praised the loyalty and support of all the fans.
‘They travel far and wide to watch us play every second week. Really appreciate their support not only for myself but the club, it’s a great club to play for and a great region to represent,’ he said.
‘It’s great to see so many people here, I have family and friends here as well and they have watched me form the start, I am really grateful for the memories I’ve got.’
‘It’s been an incredible journey and I’ve loved every moment of it.’
Thurston ran out onto the field with his two daughters and said family meant everything to him.
Thurston sharing a special moment with his two daughters after his last ever game in Townsville
‘It’s been in incredible journey and I loved every moment of it, getting to pull this jersey on and lead these boys out for the last 10-11 years has been something special,’ Thurston said
‘Family, they mean everything to me, it means so much to me,’ he said.
With one more game left it may not have quite set in for Thurston yet, however he said being able to lead his teammates was something ‘special’ and something he will cherish forever.
‘I don’t think they have grasped it yet, but it was pretty emotional scenes coming out (on the field),’ he said.
Thurston first arrived at the Cowboys in 2005 after winning the 2004 premiership with the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs.
He spoke to The Courier Mail in early August and said he felt lucky to be able to retire on his own terms.
‘I’m not worrying about where we finish now, I’m just enjoying and savouring every game I have left he said.
Thurston also holds the record for most consecutive State of Origin games with 36
‘Look at ‘Tones’ (former teammate Antonio Winterstein), he had to retire because of chronic injury, so I am blessed that my shoulder is feeling good and I have the opportunity to finish the season healthy.’
It was obvious from the outset Thurston was a special player and he proved it in his first year with the Cowboys by taking the struggling club to its first ever grand final.
As well as winning the Dally M Medal for Player of the Year and the Dally M Halfback of the Year award.
2005 was also the first year Tuhrston would play for his beloved Queensland Maroons, he would play for them every year until his retirement.
He also has the record for most consecutive Origin games, with 36.
Thurston played for the Australian Kangaroos rugby league team (pictured) every year from 2006 to 2017
Thurston will go down as one of the truly great players to ever grace the rugby league field and he has a record to back it up.
He is a record four time Dally M Medal winner, 2005, 2007, 2014, 2015 and a two time premiership wining player, with the Bulldogs in 2004 and the Cowboys in 2015, bringing Townsville its first ever NRL title.
He became the sixth professional rugby league player to reach 2,000 career points in Round 2, 2017
Thurston also played for the Australian Kangaroos rugby league team every year from 2006 to 2017.
He first announced that he would be retiring at the end of 2018 way back in June of 2016 and he has kept his word.