STU­ART SAVED MY CA­REER

Townsville Bulletin - - SPORT - TODD BA­LYM Last week 5 THE DE­CIDER Last week 4

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.

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