NRL star Johnathan Thurston talks fame, foot­ball and fa­ther­hood.

Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Contents - In­ter­view by AL­LEY PAS­COE

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.

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