Farewelled in style

Townsville Bulletin - - SPORT - JON TUXWORTH jonathon. tuxworth@ news. com. au

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.

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