'JT the greatest if Cowboys win'
Panthers grand final hero Scott Sattler has declared that Johnathan Thurston will become the greatest player the game has ever seen if the Cowboys emerge triumphant in Sunday's all Queensland NRL Telstra Premiership Grand Final.
Thurston was instrumental in guiding North Queensland past Melbourne on Saturday night and into the second premiership decider in the club's history where they will meet the Brisbane Broncos in a match that will simultaneously unite and divide an entire state.
An unbackable favourite to win an unprecedented fourth Dally M Medal on Monday night, Thurston is already regarded in the very top echelon of rugby league greats but Sattler is convinced a grand final win on Sunday will set him apart from all others.
"I want to see Johnathan Thurston win a grand final as a leader. If he does I think he becomes our greatest rugby league player of all time," Sattler told NRL.com.
"He doesn't need it [a premiership with the Cowboys] but the expectation from everyone is that you need to tick every box.
"He has won a grand final [with the Bulldogs in 2004] but I think it's different when you win one as a leader of a team and player who has had a lot of experience after being a grand final winner at such an early age.
"It's not necessarily who I think will win because I don't think anyone knows who is going to win but I'd just love to see Thurston win the grand final and be able to tick that box where he has dominated every level of the competition."
Sattler is not the only former legend wishing Thurston and his men well with Brent Tate also firmly in Camp Cowboy despite starting his career under Wayne Bennett at the Broncos.
Having played the last four years of his career alongside Thurston at North Queensland, Tate said there were few – if any – players more deserving of grand final success than the man they call 'JT'.
"He's just a wonderful, wonderful man. I don't think anyone can say anything more about JT," Tate told NRL.com.
"It's all been said and whether the Cowboys win this grand final or not, it's not going to influence where he finishes in terms of his stature in the game.
"If anything it will enhance it but when he finishes he's going to go down as one of the all-time greats.
"It's not just what he does on the field, it's all the stuff he does off it and the hope that he brings to his people, and our area and our region.
"There's no better ambassador in our game.
"It's wonderful that two Queensland teams are in the grand final but if you're going to make me choose I'm certainly going to go the Cowboys."