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