Bull­dogs sex scan­dal: What re­ally hap­pened Footy saved me from petty crime Great­est tri­umph

The Sunday Mail (Queensland) - - FRONT PAGE - EX­CLU­SIVE JAMES PHELPS

JOHNATHAN Thurston has re­vealed foot­ball saved him from a life of crime, and he’s lifted the lid on the in­fa­mous Bull­dogs Coffs Har­bour rape in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

In an ex­plo­sive new au­to­bi­og­ra­phy, the re­tired le­gend has de­tailed how he was “break­ing into cars and steal­ing lawn­mow­ers and whip­per-snip­pers” at age 13, be­fore get­ting back on the rails with the help of foot­ball, a turn­around he hopes can in­spire to­day’s chil­dren.

Thurston has also be­come the first player to speak out about the 2004 rape in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Bull­dogs play­ers.

De­scrib­ing the episode as “all pain, hurt and ugly”, Thurston de­tailed what he saw on the night and re­vealed he be­lieves the woman made the al­le­ga­tions out of anger af­ter some play­ers re­duced her to tears.

HE was the teenage petty thief who be­came rugby league’s great­est role model.

In a post-ca­reer bomb­shell that will give ev­ery delin­quent hope, Johnathan Thurston has re­vealed rugby league saved him from a life a crime.

“I was head­ing down the wrong path,’’ Thurston said.

“From the age of about 13, I was break­ing into cars and steal­ing lawn­mow­ers and whip­per-snip­pers. I don’t know where I would be if it wasn’t for the op­por­tu­nity I got to play rugby league.’’

That is just one of the rev­e­la­tions made by the fu­ture NRL im­mor­tal in Johnathan Thurston – The Au­to­bi­og­ra­phy.

In the book, to be re­leased to­mor­row, the North Queens­land Cow­boys great writes about ev­ery­thing from his golden-point pre­mier­ship­win­ning field goal in 2015 to see­ing his fu­ture wife, then a Cow­boys em­ployee, Sa­man­tha in se­cret for fear she would be sacked for frater­ni­sa­tion.

Thurston will also be­come the first NRL player to pub­licly speak about the Coffs Har­bour Bull­dogs rape in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

“I de­cided this book had to be open and hon­est,’’ Thurston said. “There was no point do­ing it if I wasn’t go­ing to speak about things like Coffs Har­bour.’’

Thurston also goes into de­tail about some of rugby league’s great­est mo­ments, in­clud­ing the un­told sto­ries that helped the Queens­land Ma­roons build a State of Ori­gin dy­nasty.

The re­tired Queens­land le­gend re­vealed he was too em­bar­rassed to go out in pub­lic this year be­cause he feared his fi­nal sea­son form would ruin his le­gacy.

“I was hop­ing to fin­ish with a fairy­tale,’’ Thurston wrote in his au­to­bi­og­ra­phy.

“I wanted to hoist the Provan-Sum­mons tro­phy into the night air. I wanted to do a vic­tory lap with my mates. I wanted to find my wife – ANZ Sta­dium a sea of blue, yel­low and white – and kiss her be­fore hug­ging my girls: Frankie, Char­lie and Lil­lie.

“I wanted to end my ca­reer with a pre­mier­ship, a kiss, and d three hugs – but for me, there was no fairy­tale fin­ish. My fi­nal sea­son in the NRL ended up be­ing one of the most dif­fi­cult years in my 17 NRL sea- sons.

“I didn’t go out in pub­lic – un­less com­pletely nec­es­sary – since the cel­e­bra­tions that fol­lowed my 300th game. I had been hid­ing at home, too em­bar­rassed by my per­sonal per­for­mances to walk out the front door.’’

But it is the in­cred­i­ble story of how he walked away from a life of crime to be­come a rugby league role model that will in­spire gen­er­a­tion next.

Thurston was selling stolen lawn­mow­ers for $120 as a 13-year-old in Bris­bane.

The re­cently re­tired half­back made a vow to change his life when he was 15 and moved to a board­ing school in Toowoomba to chase his rugby league dream.

“It will be worth telling my story if I can help just one kid,’’ Thurston said.

“I am not proud of my past but I am proud that I was able to change my life and make some­thing of it.’’

Main pic­ture: Zak Sim­monds

ROLE MODEL: Johnathan Thurston wants to in­spire young kids in dan­ger of go­ing off the rails; (inset) his au­to­bi­og­ra­phy; happy and en­joy­ing life with his wife and chil­dren; and cradling his brother Shane.

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