Farewelled in style
IT wasn’t meant to end like this. The football gods can be cruel.
Instead of farewelling the Origin stage he’s dominated like few before on his terms, Johnathan Thurston entered Suncorp Stadium before the game on an actual stage, the shoulder he wrecked in Origin II in a sling.
But as he waved goodbye to the crowd after announcing earlier this year this series would be his last, the presence of wife Sam and his two eldest daughters reinforced the reason why he’s accepted his fate.
Thurston was also called upon by Maroons skipper Cameron Smith to join him in receiving the Origin shield after Queensland’s decisive 22- 6 series- winning victory, a fitting finale to his glittering representative career.
“You’re the greatest player I reckon that’s ever pulled on the Maroons jersey mate. Let’s lift this shield up together,” Smith said as a ground record 52,400 fans erupted.
The Cowboys champion received an enormous cheer as he entered the ground before the match to bid farewell.
The excitement proved too much for eldest daughter Frankie, who jumped around euphorically as if the cheering was directed at her.
Thurston must deep down still be shattered he couldn’t play, but it was a timely reminder football isn’t everything.
“( Queensland captain) Cameron Smith told me ‘ don’t let your mate down, and don’t let your state down’,” Thurston reminisced of his early Origin days. “That stuck with me for 37 games.
“It’s sunk in ( I’m not playing). I’m here to help the boys, sit in the box with Kevvie ( Walters, Queensland coach) and send some messages out.”
Thurston’s farewell, followed by a musical tribute from Powderfinger frontman Bernard Fanning, was peak Queensland.
But it was merely the entree for a delirious Suncorp crowd as their heroes reinforced their Origin dominance with a brilliant display.
It must have been a bittersweet feeling for Thurston, who could only watch on in admiration as the other members of arguably the best Origin “spine” in history – Billy Slater, Cameron Smith and Cooper Cronk – ran amok with brilliant debutant Cameron Munster.
Michael Morgan’s offload to fellow Townsville product Valentine Holmes to set up the first try reflected his knack of making big plays on the big stage.
Cowboys wrecking ball Coen Hess was forced to wait an hour to get game time in his Origin debut in Game Two, but he was thrust into the action after 25 minutes. He finished with 69m off seven runs and made 14 tackles without a miss in a serviceable display.
But the man of the moment was Townsville product and Cronulla speedster Valentine Holmes, who bagged a hattrick in his second Origin game.
“It’s a dream come true, he told ABC radio afterwards.
“It’s a dream of mine to play in a packed stadium, and to get the series win is a dream come true.”
THANKS CHAMP: Cameron Smith of the Maroons reacts with an emotional Johnathan Thurston following Queensland’s stunning win in Origin III in Brisbane last night.