Dave Craven: Jonathan Thurston denied fairytale finale

Australia's Johnathan Thurston. Picture: Anna Gowthorpe/PA
Australia's Johnathan Thurston. Picture: Anna Gowthorpe/PA
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SO, he is just human after all.

News yesterday that the great Johnathan Thurston is unable to take part in his State of Origin swansong would surely only have been rejoiced by New South Wales fans who so often have been tormented by his brilliance.

Australia's Johnathan Thurston (centre) celebrates with his team-mates after their victory. Picture: Anna Gowthorpe/PA

Australia's Johnathan Thurston (centre) celebrates with his team-mates after their victory. Picture: Anna Gowthorpe/PA

Yet, once the injury bulletin had been digested – the genius stand-off requires immediate major shoulder surgery – even they must have paused and considered the wider implications now that his glittering Kangaroos career is over, too.

The fairytale ending, then, will not occur. Not even Thurston can defy medical science.

Having said in February that this would be his last year of representative football, not only will he not be around for an emotional Brisbane farewell in July 12’s third and deciding Origin game but he will also miss the World Cup at the end of the year, such is the severity of his injury.

The anticipated recovery time on the 34-year-old’s damaged rotator cuff is six months. “I would love to but I don’t think it’s a reality,” said Thurston, when asked if he still had a chance to help Australia defend their global crown, its final also being in his home city of Brisbane.

The fairytale ending, then, will not occur. Not even Thurston can defy medical science.

The YP’s Dave Craven

“I obviously wanted to finish on a high this year with representative football but that is not to be and I am comfortable with that decision I have made to retire from rep football.”

So, that is that then. No more sublime JT producing his magic to win games of the highest intensity for either his beloved Maroons or the Green and Golds.

Bookmakers immediately slashed odds on New South Wales winning the decider – that is how pivotal Thurston has always been to his State – although it is fitting his final Origin act was nailing the 78th minute conversion, while nursing his damaged shoulder, to claim Wednesday’s game 18-16 and level the series.

That just showed the sort of physical toughness and mental fortitude that has been prevalent throughout one of the greatest rugby league careers of all time.

Australia's Jonathan Thurston

Australia's Jonathan Thurston

Stunned New South Wales had looked set for only their second series win since 2005 when leading 16-6 at the break in Sydney.

Afterwards, in an on-field interview with Darren Lockyer, his erstwhile partner-in-crime for both Queensland and Australia, Thurston admitted: “This is what dreams are made of.”

It was shattered less than 48 hours later, however, after scans confirmed he had damaged the shoulder that had kept him out of the first game, ending his record of 36 consecutive Origin matches dating back to his 2005 debut.

Thurston – who has helped mastermind 10 series wins in 13 years of Origin and has won 39 caps for Australia – revealed he thought he would be able to “pump” out one or two more games to at least get to July 12.

However, he was advised by medical specialists that would cause damage that would effect him for the rest of his life and surgery was the only option.

Thankfully, this is not the end of his playing career as he carries on with North Queensland Cowboys in 2018.

But the image of Thurston on the RLWC website, pitched alongside England’s James Graham to illustrate the opening tournament game between the sides on October 27, is certainly now redundant.

With fellow stars Greg Inglis and Matt Scott also ruled out, England will feel their hopes of a rare success will increase.

That said, the Roos have plenty of talented replacements – but there will only ever be one JT.