Play­ing foot­ball was my saviour

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - NEWS -

HE was the teenage petty thief who be­came one of rugby league’s great­est play­ers.

In a post-ca­reer bomb­shell that will give ev­ery trou­bled teenager hope, Johnathan Thurston has re­vealed rugby league saved him from a life of 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 league.’’

That is just one of the stun­ning rev­e­la­tions made by the fu­ture NRL Im­mor­tal in Johnathan Thurston: The Au­to­bi­og­ra­phy, set to be re­leased on Thurs­day.

The North Queens­land Cow­boys great writes about ev­ery­thing from his golden-point, premier­ship-win­ning field goal in 2015 to se­cretly see­ing his fu­ture wife and then Cow­boys em­ployee Sa­man­tha for fear she would be sacked for be­ing in a re­la­tion­ship with a player.

Thurston will also be­come the first NRL player to pub­licly speak about the Coffs Har­bour Bull­dogs rape scan­dal. “I de­cided this book had to be open and hon­est,’’ he 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 dis­ap­point­ing 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 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 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 sea­sons.

“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.’’

Thurston’s story is an in­cred­i­ble tale of how he walked away from a life of crime to be­come one of the great­est play­ers. He was sell­ing stolen lawn­mow­ers for $120 as a 13-year-old in Bris­bane.

“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.’’

Johnathan Thurston and hiswife Sa­man­tha Lynch at the 2018 Dally M Awards.EX­CLU­SIVE TO­MOR­ROW IN THE DAILY TELE­GRAPH: APH:JT’S TEENAGE DREAMS

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