It doesn’t feel all that long ago that Johnathan Thurston was sitting in amongst the coaching staff during game three of the State of Origin series, riding every tackle, pass and kick with the same gusto he’s displayed on the field in his whole career.
As his North Queensland Cowboys side gear up for their third ever Grand Final, there is a faint glimmer of hope that the champion half-back could lace up his boots and head out on the turf with his Cowboys teammates.
The man himself wasn’t hopeful when speaking to the media, suggesting he was resigned to missing the impending decider but he did say he would pack his boots just in case.
Prop forward Matt Scott remains the more likely miracle resurrection, having been named as a reserve for last week’s qualifying final win over the Sydney Roosters. However, plenty of people are still holding out hope that Thurston could pull off a Lazarus-like return of his own and stun the rugby league world.
A leader off the field
Thurston’s been a huge influence over the young Cowboys side despite being injured, constantly in conversion with the players and working alongside Paul Green. It is probably in the guidance he could bring halves Michael Morgan and Te Maire Martin that Thurston, a future immortal, will have his biggest impact on the 2017 Grand Final.
Scenes of the 2015 decider, in which Thurston piloted home the winning field goal in extra time, are still fresh in the minds, but such heroics may not be on the cards this time around.
Respected amongst Twitter users for his knowledge and understanding of the injuries that plague footballers, the Twitter account NRL Physio has his doubts on a possible Thurston return.
Quantified with a disclaimer that the opinions expressed come from a qualified physiotherapist but are general and not based on physical assessment, the account tweeted that with Thurston being “approximately two months, three weeks into rehab” for his surgery, it would be “much too soon” for Thurston to pull on the boots and trot out at ANZ Stadium this Sunday.
Paying tribute to the players that got them there
While it’s unlikely he’ll play, Thurston has heaped praise on his teammates for getting to the decider against all the odds.
“This playing group has put this club in this position. I see it day in, day out, what they do,” Thurston said. “It’s come as no surprise to me.”
Thurston was most effervescent in his praise of long-time halves partner and Queensland teammate Morgan, saying he was the “future of the club,” and suggesting he was likely the form player in the competition over the last few weeks.
“That’s one lad in the team I’m really excited about and really proud of what he’s been able to do,” he said. “He’s been able to play his own game and not try to fill my shoes.
“That’s what I’ve always been speaking to him about, stamp your authority on the team and play your role. His game has gone to another level. He’s in career-best form.”
The week ahead will likely feature plenty of rumour, innuendo and hushed whispers about the possible return of a North Queensland great.
But the sad fact is, most of the talk will be about Scott, a great player in his own right, and not the one and only Thurston.
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