Matt Encarnacion, Western Sydney Correspondent, NRL.com
Cowboys, Maroons and Kangaroos playmaker Johnathan Thurston has opened up on his own personal legacy and his desire to win a premiership with the Cowboys.
Q: Will Round 23's test against Penrith stand you in good stead for your run home?
A: I hope so. We need to learn from it. Obviously we’ve got the Bunnies on Saturday, who are the form team of the competition. No disrespect to the teams we’ve played over the last couple of weeks, especially the Titans and the Tigers, who have been having problems on and off the field.
That was a really good test for us against the Panthers and we just need to learn from a few mistakes that we made and make sure that we don’t do that again against a side because they’ll put us to the sword.
Q: What are your thoughts on Luke Keary?
A: That was the first time I’ve seen him play against the Broncos. He looks as though he loves to run the ball and that’s probably his best asset from what I’ve seen in that game. He’s got runners inside and out and likes to show either side and take the line on. Obviously him and Adam Reynolds are pushing each other there. They’ve got Sutto to come back as well. He’s got a big future in the game.
Q: Are you the sleeping giant of the NRL?
A: I don’t think we’re a sleeping giant but we haven’t achieved much over the last two or three years. We’ve been disappointed with the way we’ve finished on the ladder and we haven’t really given ourselves a chance.
It’s the same as this year. We’re lucky that we’ve been really good at home and we’ve only got two away wins. Our season is on the line in the next two to three games and the competition's that congested that three losses and we won’t be playing semi-finals. It’s a good test for us and we’ll see what it means to the boys when they play on Saturday night.
Q: Some people say you need a premiership for your legacy. What do you make of that?
A: Everyone wants to win a premiership, you know? Not all fairytales come true. If I don't win a premiership when I retire, then people will judge me for that. I'm pretty happy with what I have achieved in the game and no doubt if I get the opportunity to win a grand final with this coaching staff and this bunch of players, then that would be the icing on the cake.
But I'm not naive enough to think that all fairytales come true. I do believe we've got a squad and a coaching staff to shake the competition. We just need to learn from a few things throughout the year where we keep shooting ourselves in the foot. When we do that, hopefully we can finish high on the ladder and give ourselves a better opportunity of playing in the finals and winning games.
Q: Is it unfair to put the pressure on you?
A: That's whatever people think. All I try and do is my bit for the team, make sure that I do my role to the best that I can. Making sure that I can bring the best out of the players around me. And that's what I'm trying to do. I think this is my 13th year in grade, I've played a lot of rep football, I think I'm pretty knowledgeable about the game and can pass on tips to the younger guys. That's what we need to learn about playing week-to-week footy and learning how to win big games. We haven't been able to do that over the last three to four years.
Q: Why is that?
A: There've been injuries. We've made the wrong decisions in pressure times. That's the crux of it, I reckon. You look at your successful teams that are the Sea Eagles, Melbourne, obviously the Roosters and all that, they make their plays when the heat's on.
Our ball control at the start of the year and over the years hasn't been great. When you put yourself under pressure and defending back-to-back sets, and then when you finally get the ball, they've zapped that much energy it's hard to move the ball around and move the opposition around.
Q: What would it mean for you to win a premiership at the Cowboys?
A: That's what's driving me now. To bring the best out of the boys around me so we can do that. I was only 20 I think when I won that [premiership]. Obviously went back to back in the grand finals in '05, but I haven't been a part of one since. I understand how hard it is to get there. That's what's driving me.
Q: What would it mean for the people of Townsville?
A: Not just Townsville, but north Queensland. I think 30 or 40 per cent of our members drive more than an hour to our home games. Geographically we're massive throughout North Queensland. We do a lot of community and a lot of those fans have been there since '95 and been sitting on the hill. What it would do for the community? It'll blow it away. It's rugby league heartland up there.
Q: How much did losing Origin sting?
A: That was probably my worst series. Even though we had some injuries in that side, at the end of the day we were in a position to win those games and we just weren't good enough. Full credit to the Blues, they defended their butts off and they made us pay when we made some errors. So they were the winners, deservedly. But yeah, my first series in '05, it's like a knife to the heart and this one was no different.
Q: Did it affect your club form?
A: Yeah, it does. Especially after, I think it was Game II and we played Newcastle away and we got towelled up by Newcastle. I was that keen to play against Newcastle, and it was probably top five worst games I've had in Cowboys colours. I was just champing at the bit to play against the Bunnies the following week.
When you have losses like that, it just drives you to get that opportunity again to wear that jersey. I just couldn't wait to put both the Queensland jersey on and obviously the Cowboys one after we lost because you're only as good as your last game and you just want to get out there and compete and win.