NRL star Johnathan Thurston talks fame, football and fatherhood.
You can download your laugh as a ringtone. Be honest, do you have it on your phone? [Laughs] No, not at all – I don’t have it on my phone. It is a little bit weird when you’re sitting at a cafe and someone’s phone goes off and you can hear your laugh going... You’ve been called the greatest rugby league player of all time. How do you stop yourself getting a big head? [Laughs] Firstly, I don’t think I am the greatest player of all time. But it’s nice to hear that people think of me in that way. It’s very humbling. I’ve got a good family around me that keeps me grounded – and obviously your teammates are quick to pull you into line if you start getting a big head. You stacked supermarket shelves and washed cars before your big break in rugby at age 19. Did you ever expect to be a four-time Dally M medallist with an honorary doctorate from James Cook University? No, I didn’t. I also worked as a porter in a hotel in Sydney before I got a contract. Not in my wildest dreams would I have thought about the personal accolades that I’ve won. But, also, I understand that it’s a team game and I’ve been very lucky to have a lot of great players around me. How do you focus when you’re kicking a goal in front of 83,000 people? It’s a little bit hard. I just stick to my processes and know what I’ve got to do. I zone everything out and it’s like I’m the only person standing in that stadium. Everyone gets blocked out, I go through my routine and take the kick. You’ve been on a mission to get Townsville a new sports stadium for years. How many damn grand finals do you need to win to get one? Yes, finally, the stadium has been approved! I think they are starting construction at the end of this year and looking at opening it in the 2020 season. I will be long retired before then, but it’s great news for north Queensland and the community of Townsville that they will get a world-class stadium. You and your wife Samantha eloped in 2015 and got married on Whitehaven Beach, Whitsunday Island. How has married life changed you? For the better, obviously. We’ve been together for a long time now, and she has been my rock and made me a better person. She certainly challenges me in every way to be a better father and husband. I’d be lost without her. Your daughters – Frankie, three, and Charlie, one – are the cutest little girls. Who gets stopped the most on the street for photos, you or them? Definitely them; they’re starting to steal Daddy’s thunder. They are adorable – Samantha and I are biased when we say that. They are also a handful. They can’t sit still and they’re always running amok. You’ve got to be on your toes when you’re around them.
“[My wife] challenges me to be a better father and husband. I’d be lost without her”
``I´ll miss sitting in the shed with the boys and having a beer´´
You’re expecting your third child in March – are you just going to keep having babies until you can fill an entire team? No way. I would go again, but my wife has certainly put the handbrake on after this one. We are very lucky to have two beautiful daughters and one on the way. We had to go through IVF, so it took us a long time to fall pregnant and we both feel very blessed. Frankie knows what’s going on and she keeps asking to hug the baby. It’s pretty cute. Frankie made news across the world when she brought her dark-skinned doll to the 2015 grand final. What did you make of the headlines? I think all those headlines were fairly positive, so she is a little star herself. We’re trying to raise our children the right way and instil the values that Samantha and I had when we were growing up. You supported AFL star Adam Goodes through the racially motivated booing scandal in 2015. How important is inclusiveness in sport? Sport has a way to make social change [happen], that’s the power it has. The NRL is kicking goals in that aspect; it has a reconciliation plan, the All Stars game and the Indigenous round. I’m passionate about Indigenous issues, especially for the next generation. We want to steer them in the right direction and keep our culture coming through. This year’s State of Origin will be your last. Any parting words for the Blues? No, not at all… [Laughs] You are committed to playing for the Cowboys until 2018. What will you miss most about the game when you retire? Definitely the friendships and the locker-room talk; the banter between the boys. After a win, I will miss sitting in the shed with my teammates and having a cold beer. You met David Beckham a few years ago. Do you call soccer “football”? And is it really “the world game”? Apparently it is the world game, but I call it soccer. The NRL’S 2017 Season kicks off on March 2.