Thurston: A premiership won't define me
He refers to the decade since North Queensland's sole grand final appearance as a "lot of wasted years" but co-captain Johnathan Thurston insists his legacy to the club won't be defined by a maiden Cowboys premiership.
Entering his 11th season in Townsville, Thurston heads into Saturday night's season opener against the Roosters at 1300SMILES Stadium with a full pre-season and two sparkling hit-outs under his belt and with his team one of the premiership elects.
As reigning Dally M player of the year, much of the Cowboys' fortunes fall on the shoulders of Thurston but the third-most capped Cowboy of all time says that leading the club to a maiden premiership in the next three years is by no means a formality.
"I suppose that's for all the opinionators out there to write about and talk about. This will be my 10th year at the club so I must be doing something right!" Thurston said of a career-defining premiership.
"No doubt winning a premiership is [my main motivation] but I'm not naive enough to think that all fairytales come true. I'm working my butt off like everyone else does in the competition and trying to get the best out of the rest of the squad as well as being a leader at the club.
"That's what's driving me, to try and win a premiership but will that define me? Some people will say yes but once I sit back after my career is finished I'll be pretty happy with what I've been able to achieve."
Cowboys coach Paul Green has already discussed the possibility of resting his star halfback during the course of the season in order to ensure he is in the best physical shape when the big games come around.
Thurston has no doubt that the harder edge Green has brought in his 18 months at the club to date has put the club within reach of the game's greatest accomplishment while at the same time conceding the club has under-achieved since their 2005 Grand Final loss to the Wests Tigers.
Although they have qualified for the finals the past four years the Cowboys' best season since their Grand Final appearance was a Preliminary Final loss to the Sea Eagles in 2007, Thurston making no excuses for a disappointing decade.
"It's not like we've had a whole different amount of coaches [in that time]," Thurston said. "Since I've been here Greeny's been my fourth coach. We had 'Muzz' (Graham Murray) and then Neil [Henry] and we had Ian Millward in there for a little bit as well.
"Certainly I look at the last 10 years with the squad that we had, we should have been able to be a lot more successful than we have been.
"We've come a long way in the last 12 months compared to where we were. Hopefully that will put us in good stead for the next couple of years but as you know, you need a fair bit of luck as well to be successful.
"'Greeny' and the coaching staff have come in and changed the culture and all the playing group has jumped on board.
"We're trying to put our best foot forward and hopefully that puts is in good stead for what's coming up."