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In an ex­plo­sive chap­ter, Queens­land rugby league star Johnathan Thurston tells of the game’s most in­fa­mous in­ci­dent

The Sunday Mail (Queensland) - - NEWS -

EY, there’s that sheila from the other night,” said a team­mate, point­ing at a young woman on the dance floor.

It was 1.30 in the morn­ing, Sun­day, 22 Fe­bru­ary, 2004.

I was stand­ing next to three of my Bull­dogs team­mates in the Plan­ta­tion Ho­tel in Coffs Har­bour, sip­ping a can of bour­bon and cola.

We had de­mol­ished the Raiders 30–12 in a pre-sea­son trial match that day and I was ex­cited about the prospect of the sea­son start.

Bull­dogs coach Steve Folkes had given us a leave pass.

Folkesy was an old-school coach. He was happy for us to have a drink as long as we turned up at the pool at 7am for re­cov­ery.

I looked to­wards where my team- mate was point­ing, through the crowd – heav­ing and rowdy – and saw a young woman wear­ing black. I had never seen her be­fore. “Who?” I said. “From when?” The boys filled me in. Ap­par­ently a few of my team­mates had met her at the pub on Wednesday night, when we were given a leave pass and told we could hit the town. Some of the boys went to the movies, oth­ers stayed at the team ho­tel and a group went to the pub. I went to the pub but left early, hop­ing to get a good night’s sleep with our game against the Raiders just a cou­ple of nights away. “She came back with the boys on Wednesday night,” the team­mate con­tin­ued. “She slept with six of them.” I nod­ded and sipped on my drink. I wish I could tell you that I was shocked by the group sex – but I wasn’t. Con­sen­sual group sex, a girl sleep­ing with more than one NRL player at the same time, was not un­usual. Look­ing back now, I can see how dis­taste­ful and dis­re­spect­ful it was. Now, 14 years later, as a dad of three daugh­ters, I don’t con­done that type of thing. But back then I was just a 20-year-old do­ing my best to fit in. I can’t tell you my story and omit the most con­tro­ver­sial chap­ter of my ca­reer. I can’t leave out an event that then threat­ened to end my ca­reer be­fore it even got started. I’d rather for­get these events but I owe you the truth. Again, this is my story. I can only tell you what I did and what I saw.

With this I will be­come the first mem­ber of the 2004 Bull­dogs squad to pub­licly speak about the in­ci­dent that be­came known as the “Bull­dogs Rape Scan­dal”.

And there are no win­ners here: it is all pain, hurt and ugly.

Back to the Plan­ta­tion Ho­tel, where my team­mate had just pointed out a woman in the crowd. “She wants to meet up with some of the boys again,” he said.

“But I don’t think they want to see her again.”

I con­tin­ued drink­ing, not giv­ing the young woman in black an­other thought. I was on a high af­ter our trial win. I spent the rest of the night play­ing the pok­ies and drink­ing with my team­mates, as well as a few of the Can­berra boys, who were also at the pub.

At about 5am, I jumped into a taxi with a cou­ple of team­mates. That 7am start at the pool was on our minds.

Then one of my team­mates was shout­ing. “F--k off,” he yelled. “Get out of here. You’re not com­ing with us.”

I turned to see the young woman in black. She was try­ing to get into our taxi. One of the boys pushed her out and gave her a gob-full. She wasn’t im­pressed.

“You are just a no­body,” she screamed. “A f--khead.” She was still shout­ing as the taxi pulled away. I fig­ured that was the last we’d see of her.

But about an hour later, when I was in my room at the Novo­tel try­ing to sleep, my room­mate said, “S--t, that girl is com­ing. Have a look.” I looked out the win­dow.

She was walk­ing g to­wards our rooms. Knock. Knock. She banged on the door of the room next to us, where some of f my team­mates were e stay­ing. Knock. Knock. At first the boys s tried to ig­nore her. Knock. Knock. “Let me in,” she e screamed.

They didn’t re- spond but she kept t at it. Even­tu­ally y

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