Maroons star Johnathan Thurston has considered quitting rep footy to concentrate on delivering the Cowboys a premiership. Copyright: Robb Cox/NRL Photos Credit: NRL Photos Copyright: NRL Photos
Johnathan Thurston's burning desire to deliver North Queensland a premiership almost led to the star five-eighth quitting representative football.
That's the startling admission the star Maroons five-eighth made as he reflected on an eighth-straight Series win and a second Golden Boot award as the game's premier player in 2013.
With their co-captains – Thurston and Matthew Scott – in camp with the Queensland Origin camp ahead of Game One last year, the Cowboys' loss to the Titans in Round 12 was their eighth of the season and Thurston conceded that the physical and emotional toll of Origin has given him cause to consider stepping down.
"Yes I've thought about maybe doing that (stepping down) but I love the environment and friendships that I've made in those teams and really enjoy going into those camps," Thurston said.
"Everyone that's obviously played an Origin game or been a part of a Series knows how tough it is to win one and knows how physically and mentally draining it is when you lose one.
"It's tough backing up for your club, two or three days later. Clubs are pretty smart now and give the boys a fair bit of time off but still the collisions in Origin and Test football are a lot higher than what they are in club football. It's so much faster as well."
Former Maroons five-eighth and Fox Sports commentator Ben Ikin is a current board member at the Cowboys and said that he would never ask Thurston to make such a sacrifice for the sake of his club side.
"It's never been brought up in a board meeting but me personally, I would never ever put him in that position," Ikin said.
"He knows himself better than we do and it doesn't matter where you sit in rugby league, everyone can see how he has matured and what a leader he has become for the game, on and off the field.
"I rest easy at the moment knowing he is going to make the best decision on all fronts, for himself, the Cowboys, his state and his country.
"I still haven't seen anyone dominate in the Origin arena the way Wally Lewis did but in the modern version of the game the biggest wrap that I can give 'JT' and 'Locky' (Darren Lockyer) is that when those guys are in a football side, not only do they shine but the players around them play better.
"JT has got that trait in bucketloads."
Due to turn 31 on April 25 and having become a father for the first time in 2013, Thurston is poised to further etch his name into Origin folklore throughout the 2014 Series. Two more successful conversions and he will not only surpass current Maroons coach Mal Meninga's record for most goals in Origin football (69) but also register the four points he needs to claim Meninga's record for most points in Origin.
Having not missed an Origin fixture since his debut in Game One of the last Series in which Queensland tasted defeat, Thurston is also set to extend his record for most consecutive Origins played past 27 and said that Meninga does allow them to revel in the history they are currently creating.
"My first Series in '05 we lost, so there are only a few of the boys that are in this Queensland side that have experienced that," said Thurston. "It takes its toll on you both mentally and physically but Mal certainly wants us to live in the moment.
"When you think about it, there have been legends of our game that have come before us and this squad that Mal's assembled, to be able to achieve something like this is remarkable."
Thurston believes that scheduling is one of the major issues currently facing the game and believes that Origin stars need five or six days in order to sufficiently recover to play at their best for their club side.
"It's tough, your body is very sore Saturday morning, getting a lot of massages and things like that to try and get the bruising out of your body," Thurston said of recovery required ahead of a regular Saturday night Cowboys fixture.
"And you're very stiff so come game time you're stretching the hell out of your body to make sure it's right."
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