Cowboys sweating on Thurston signature

North Queensland are sweating on two third party deals currently being negotiated by Johnathan Thurston’s manager Sam Ayoub in their bid to re-sign their star halfback beyond 2010.<br><br>But rumours that Thurston is close to making a decision are wide of the mark, with both Ayoub and the club admitting today that there was still a long way to go in the negotiation process.<br><br>Off contract at the end of the year, Thurston is in high demand, with up to five NRL clubs having expressed interest in the Queensland and Australian playmaker.<br><br>French rugby union club Biarritz has also tabled a huge offer for the 27-year-old.<br><br>Cowboys chief executive Peter Parr told NRL.com that Thurston would almost certainly be won or lost by the success of the current third party deals.<br><br>“If we get them to the stage where the club is comfortable that Johnathan can handle the requirements of these third party agreements and it doesn’t interfere with his football too much – and we get some approval from the NRL – then we might go some way towards securing his services,” Parr said.<br><br>“But I think it’s going to take a little bit of time because we have to work through them and get sign-off from everyone. <br><br>“Once we get to that point Johnathan will know exactly what is on the table and what his workload is with his football and third party commitments, so then he can make a decision on whether it’s enough to keep him in the game.”<br><br>The Cowboys have offered Thurston a three-year, $500,000-per-year deal with third party sponsorships potentially adding another $150,000 over the course of the contract.<br><br>But that pales into insignificance compared with overseas offers worth twice that much.<br><br>Although recent reports suggested Biarritz had baulked at Thurston’s asking price of more than $1 million a year, Ayoub said the deal was still very much alive.<br><br>“Definitely, absolutely,” he said. “The interest overseas accelerates, to be honest, because this is the prime time for those clubs’ shopping, basically. <br><br>“A month ago it was probably a little premature, even though we did have and still do have an offer on the table. <br><br>“I don’t think we’ll have it much longer if we don’t act on it much longer.”<br><br>However, Ayoub admitted that money wasn’t the only consideration here – if it was, Thurston would be long gone – with the halfback’s first preference being to stay in Townsville.<br><br>“The intention is to try and piece it together and keep him here… but we’ll see what happens,” he said.<br><br>“At this stage that’s the aim and direction for us and we’re trying but if things don’t fall into place, then everything changes.<br><br>“Things can change from day to day, to be honest.”<br><br>Parr said that although the delay was frustrating, it was important that the details of North Queensland’s final offer were worked through diligently in order to present Thurston with the most transparent deal possible. <br><br>“It’s not an easy process,” he said. “You can’t just wave a magic wand and have it all down in front of you. <br><br>“We understand that most people would like a decision sooner rather than later but we’ve got some things to work through, so that when it’s done, it’s done properly.”