FINDING A BALANCE
COWBOYS HERO JOHNATHAN THURSTON TALKS LEAVING WORK AT THE OFFICE AND PUTTING FAMILY FIRST
WHAT DOES AN AVERAGE DAY IN THE LIFE LOOK LIKE FOR YOU?
During the footy season, my average day involves some hard training sessions which could comprise of a two-hour weight session or a two-hour field session or, if the coach wants to push me, a double session. The remainder of the week could include community work, sponsorship commitments and media appearances. I generally only get one day off a week, which is spent with the family.
HOW OFTEN DO YOU TRAVEL?
Travel is a big part of my career, both on the field and off the field. On field, I travel to represent my club, state and nation and off field I travel as an owner and community ambassador for North Queensland airline Skytrans, and also for media commitments with Channel Nine. This year alone my travel itinerary included the World Club Challenge in England, seven weeks away with the Four Nations tour, 12 away games, three State of Origin games, Channel Nine media commitments and, wearing my Skytrans hat, community visits to Aurukun, Thursday Island and Horn Island.
IS MOST OF YOUR TRAVEL FOR WORK OR FOR FUN? PLEASE EXPLAIN.
Nearly all my travel is for work and has given me the opportunity to meet some incredible people from all walks of life. I have had the chance to not only travel the globe but visit some great little remote corners of North Queensland.
YOU WEAR A LOT OF DIFFERENT HATS. COULD YOU PLEASE GIVE OUR READERS A BRIEF RUNDOWN OF THE DIFFERENT ROLES IN YOUR PROFESSIONAL LIFE?
My professional career includes: co-captain of the North Queensland Toyota Cowboys, Queensland State of Origin representative, Australian representative, Indigenous All Stars representative, Chanel Nine sports commentator – The Footy Show, co-owner and community ambassador for North Queensland airline Skytrans.
WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT ROLE IN YOUR LIFE? PLEASE EXPLAIN?
The most important role I play in life is to be the best father and husband I can be. I spend all my off-field time with them, including taking the girls to swimming lessons each week. When I am away, I Skype them so I can stay up to date each day with all their news and little achievements.
HOW DO YOU STAY GROUNDED?
I surround myself with good people who are also positive and community minded. I have a very close network of family and friends. I also have a big role within the community and work with people from all backgrounds. When I do get the chance to have a round of golf, my score certainly keeps my grounded!
HOW IMPORTANT DO YOU THINK IT IS TO HAVE A LIFE THAT HAS A BALANCE BETWEEN WORK, FAMILY AND DOWNTIME?
Balance is very important and one of the great things about living in North Queensland is that a work-life balance maybe a little easier to achieve. Because I travel so much during the year, we holiday at home and enjoy living on the beach. Occasionally I will fit in a game of golf with my teammates, which I class as team bonding!
DO YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE ACHIEVED BALANCE IN YOUR LIFE BETWEEN WORK AND FAMILY COMMITMENTS?
Yes, I do believe I have been able to achieve this balance as I can quickly make mental shifts between work and home. I have the ability to be able to switch off from the pressures of the job, and give my loved ones my full attention. I think this is really important.
WITH SUCH A BUSY AND HIGH-PROFILE CAREER, HOW DO YOU MAINTAIN YOUR RELATIONSHIPS WITH YOUR WIFE AND FAMILY?
I have a lot of commitments and my wife, Sam, and I carefully balance these commitments with enough family time. Our family enjoys the simple pleasures of living in North Queensland such as time in the pool, barbecues with family and friends.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU OFFER PEOPLE WHO MIGHT BE STRUGGLING TO BALANCE A BUSY, HIGH-PROFILE CAREER WITH THEIR PRIVATE LIVES?
Although work is very important, learn to switch off and really be present when you are with loved ones.
HOW IMPORTANT DO YOU THINK A SENSE OF HUMOUR IS WHEN IT COMES TO DEALING WITH CHALLENGING SITUATIONS?
Having a good sense of humour is certainly a big part of who I am. I can laugh at myself during a difficult situation and still know I can perform at my best. My competitive muscle memory helps me to perform at my best when under pressure.
HOW DO YOU FIND THE TIME FOR ALL THE DIFFERENT ASPECTS OF YOUR LIFE?
My wife and I have a strong work ethic so we do try to fit in as much as we can. The footy season spans 11 months of the year, so I usually only get four weeks off a year. Sam manages my diary and has the job of juggling the commitments with ensuring I have enough family time.
HOW IMPORTANT IS BEING A POSITIVE ROLE MODEL?
Being a positive role model is one of the most important jobs I have today. I understand how much of a difference sportspeople can make to the lives of different people. However, working in the community space wasn’t always something that came naturally to me at first. When I first moved to Townsville, my career kickstarted really quickly. I didn’t quite know how to deal with the community expectations. Today, however, it is a different story, and I am very passionate about my culture and heritage. Whenever I can, I send out positive messages to indigenous kids to stay in school and get a good education. I want them to finish school and become positive role models within their own communities. Last year I visited the Aurukun Primary School with Skytrans and the kids had prepared an amazing talk about leadership, grit and endurance in relation to life in general and my career on the field. I am also involved in the North Queensland Cowboys Earn and Learn program, which works with schools all over North Queensland.
YOU HAVE BEEN CALLED THE BEST FOOTY PLAYER IN THE WORLD. HOW DOES THAT MAKE YOU FEEL?
It’s very humbling when people think and talk about me in that way. I have been playing in some very good teams which helps as well.
COULD YOU GIVE OUR CURIOUS READERS SOME IDEA OF WHAT YOUR DIET IS LIKE?
My diet is pretty good and as I have got older I have a better grasp on what works for me to perform at my best. At the back end of the week, I eat a lot of carbohydrates such as rice, and at the start of the week, I eat a lot of proteins such as steak to repair the body.
WHAT HAPPENS ONCE YOU RETIRE FROM PLAYING FOOTY?
I have signed a contract with Channel Nine and am really looking forward to getting more involved in sideline commentary and The Footy
Show. I think I can offer our fans insights as to how the football players are thinking during different situations. I am also considering getting my pilot’s licence!