Thurston Confirms End To Rep Career
He owns three State of Origin records that may never be surpassed and is the Kangaroos' greatest ever point-scorer but Johnathan Thurston insists he has more memories to create in what will be his final year of representative football.
At the conclusion of his first week back at training with the North Queensland Cowboys Thurston spoke to the media on Friday and confirmed that he would step down from representative football after the 2017 Rugby League World Cup but is yet to ink an extension to stay with the Cowboys for what would be a 14th season with the club in 2018.
Emphasising his incredible durability, Thurston has not missed a single Origin game since his debut in Game One, 2005, his 36 consecutive appearances to date 10 more than the next best (Darius Boyd) and 12 more than former Maroons warhorse Gary Larson.
His 214 points in Origin are the most by more than 50 points and he needs just one more Queensland jersey to move past Darren Lockyer to be second behind good mate Cameron Smith as the second-most capped Origin player of all time.
Thurston will be 34 years of age when Game One is played at Suncorp Stadium on May 31 and although he admits it will be an emotional time, is adamant that it is the right time to step aside.
"It's got to come to an end sometime and for me it will be this year," Thurston confirmed on Friday.
"Personally I just need to make sure I'm playing well enough to warrant selection and not rest on my laurels and make sure I'm still trying to improve.
"I've had a lot of great memories, created a lot of good memories from my time in the rep arena and it will be nice to sit back and watch the boys run around.
"It will be an emotional time when that happens but looking forward to the year ahead.
"You don't really make it about yourself but being part of the team for a number of years I'm sure the boys would like to prepare the best that they can to get the result that we want.
"We've got two games at Suncorp but it's always a tough arena and looking forward to it and hopefully creating some more really good memories."
One of the greatest players to ever play the game Thurston has expressed his desire to play on again in 2018 but is waiting for the salary cap to be agreed upon by the NRL and the Rugby League Players Association before putting pen to paper.
One of the game's most respected figures and a demigod in North Queensland, Thurston hopes that the salary cap can be finalised soon so that he can sit down and come to terms with the Cowboys for a further season.
"The club is aware of my situation so we just need the NRL to make sure that we get the salary cap done and then we can start getting negotiations underway," Thurston said.
"It's difficult for clubs and players alike to talk figures when we don't know what the salary cap's going to be. Hopefully the RLPA and the NRL can come to an agreement soon so we can move on."
For a young player such as back-rower Coen Hess with just nine NRL games to his name, the opportunity to play a further two seasons outside the majestic skills of Thurston will stay with him for the remainder of his career.
"He's one of the best in the game so for however long he's around I'm ecstatic to be able to learn off one of the best players that has ever played the game," Hess said of the prospect of another season with Thurston at the helm
"It's very exciting for the club and also the people of North Queensland.
"They all love him up here so I'm sure everyone's pretty excited."
This article first appeared on NRL.com