STUART SAVED MY CAREER
North Queensland Cowboys and Maroons superstar Johnathan Thurston has revealed New South Wales great RIcky Stuart saved him from the rugby league scrap heap way back in 2001.
JO H N A T H A N Th u r s t o n might be the greatest favour NSW has ever done for Queensland.
When Thurston was a skinny 18- year- old playing in Toowoomba and struggling to make an impact with rugby league scouts, it was former NSW coach Ricky Stuart who discovered him and took a punt by offering him his first and only teenage contract.
That’s right, it was the Blues mentor worshipped south of the border but derided in Queensland who found Thurston and gave him a football career that has many talking about him becoming a future Immortal.
Stuart spotted Thurston playing an Origin curtain- raiser before the final game at Lang Park in 2001, before he sent his recruitment chief Mark Hughes to Toowoomba the following weekend to secure his signature.
“I remember I made Queensland under- 19s and Sticky seen me play and he sent Mark ( Hughes) up the following weekend to watch me play local A- grade in Toowoomba,” Thurston said.
“Then I went down and had a look at the facilities and everything, then went back home and packed my bags and went to Sydney.”
Hughes remembered he was one of only two scouts in rugby league interested in Thurston as a teenager, the other being Arthur Beetson.
It was on the insistence of Stuart, who desperately wanted Thurston to come and join his Jersey Flegg team, that he SUNCORP STADIUM, JULY 8, 8PM
SERIES TIED 1- 1 was signed by Canterbury.
“Only Arthur Beetson and I were in on Johnathan when he was 17,” Hughes said.
“Everyone else thought he was too small, too slow, too this. I don’t know what they missed about his footy ability.’’
Thurston joined an elite crew including Sonny Bill Williams and Nate Myles coming through the juniors at Belmore before graduating into the remarkable career that currently includes three Dally M medals and two Golden Boot awards.
“I didn’t think I would get an opportunity anywhere else,” Thurston said.
“So I moved down there into the house with Nate and Sonny and a few other boys.
“It took me a while to get on the team, about six or eight weeks just of constant training for the opportunity just to play in the Flegg team. We ended up winning the comp that year.”
Proving just how big an influence Stuart has been in Thurston’s career, he was also Test coach when Thurston was handed his Kangaroos Test debut in 2006.
“I have got a lot of time for Ricky, you know he gave me the opportunity back then, so I’ve got a lot to thank Ricky for,” Thurston said.
So does Queensland.