Thurston milestone brings high praise
When Johnathan Thurston laces them up for the 250th time in the NRL on Saturday night he will surpass the one most consider the greatest of them all.
Rugby league's eighth immortal Andrew Johns called it a day at 249 NRL games with a heady list of achievements including 26 Test matches, 23 Origins, three Dally M medals, two Golden Boot awards and one Clive Churchill Medal.
Thurston's resumé lists all that and more, with the one exception being a Clive Churchill Medal for best on ground in a grand final.
Most believe premiership success is the one thing separating Thurston from a guaranteed place at the top of rugby league's all-time totem pole, while some think he has already proven his worth.
Thurston's long-term left-hand man Gavin Cooper is one of those.
"I'm pretty biased," Cooper said when asked for his two cents.
"Andrew Johns is definitely (the best halfback) for now but once 'JT' hangs the boots up I think everyone will agree that he has passed him.
"It's just the competitor that (Thurston) is. I know Andrew Johns had all the skills and wanted to win but just to see the way JT plays… I think we're having a tribute to JT every week these days."
The 31-year-old's recent run of form has been the catalyst for a season-changing three weeks for North Queensland, which has elevated hype even more coming into his milestone match.
Thurston was asked after the Cowboys 30-12 win against South Sydney last week who he thought was the best player currently running around.
Never one to blow his own trumpet, an embarrassed Thurston offered: "no comment," going on to point the spotlight in the direction of teammates.
Saturday night is a match of milestones for North Queensland with first-year Cowboy Ben Hannant clocking up NRL game number 200 since his debut for the Sydney Roosters in 2005.
Hannant is quite content for his own milestone to come secondary, saying he is just honoured to share the occasion with Thurston.
"I think (Thurston's 250th game) makes it even more special for me," he said on Friday.
"I rate JT as one of the best players to ever lace a boot and to have a milestone on the same day makes me even more want to do my part and make sure I have the best possible game I can.
"Not just for myself and the team but to make sure that it's memorable to him."