NITV’s AWAKEN closes its season with a spotlight on one of rugby league’s most celebrated players, Johnathan Thurston - an intimate conversation with the North Queensland Cowboys halfback about his outstanding career, family life, racism in sport and future hopes.
As this year’s Golden Boot Award Winner gets back on the training ground to prep for next season, he speaks openly to Stan Grant about his success and inspiration for the game – how his love of league and determination from an early age has led to him being the player he is today.
"[It’s always been] the hunger, not only was I doing something for myself, I was doing something for my family, who were extremely proud…I’ve always had that drive in me to be successful. I don’t think it’s arrogance…I work extremely hard, I train extremely hard, I work on my body the best that I can, I’m pretty good with my diet – I put things in place, where there is no doubt in my mind that I am better than the person in front of me."
On the Grand Final winner, his stellar 2015 season and having such stature in the game:
"It was instinctive for me and the hours of preparation. I’ve been playing rugby league since I was six years of age, professionally now for 12 years, I’m always practicing after every session, before every session, going through those exact scenarios. All the preparation that you put in comes down to that moment and I was lucky enough to execute it."
"You don’t go out to win those individual awards. I’m very lucky with the teams that I’ve been able to play in, especially at the Cowboys, we’ve got a great group of guys who work extremely hard and we’ve got good coaching staff that put in structures and my job is to execute those structures…I’m very lucky to be able to play in those sides, I’ve got world class players around me, club level, state level and for Australia."
"It’s truly humbling when people speak of me in that type of stature but honestly, it just goes in one ear and out the other to me. I love playing rugby league and I love going to training and being around my teammates…just trying to get on with the job and do it to the best of my ability."
Passionate about his Aboriginal culture and making a difference, the sports star shares his views on racism in sport, specifically the Adam Goodes situation:
"I’ve met Goodsey a couple of times and it was heartbreaking to see what he was going through. It was very disappointing to see that the organisation and the AFL didn’t step in and just put it to bed straight away. This is a problem within society and obviously a massive problem within the AFL. He’s one of the greats to ever lace up a boot in the AFL…he does so many wonderful things and to see him get put through what he got put through was very sad and I hope people are a lot more educated on that issue now."
"I’ve never had to deal with that thank goodness within our game…I can understand people booing to put someone off for kicking a goal but every time he’s touching the ball…I don’t agree with that, I think there’s racism behind those boos. If a seven or eight year old kid is beside you and seeing you doing that, what do you think they’re going to do? We’re trying to make a difference in this country and I was very disappointed."
Looking to next season, Thurston reveals that he hasn’t yet considered his future milestones:
"I haven’t actually thought about it to be honest. We start training soon, it will just be about preparing the best I can for the start of next year. I haven’t set any goals yet, personal goals and we haven’t even spoken about team goals either."
"As long as the body is fine and I warrant selection, I’ll still be putting my hand up to play for the Maroons and for Australia."
Away from the field, Thurston talks to Stan about his childhood, the challenges he faced at the beginning of his career and also his life now, including his recent wedding to Samantha Lynch and the joys of fatherhood:
"[It] changes it for the positive in every single way. Doesn’t matter what type of day you’re having. You come home and see your childrens’ faces and the tough day you had goes out the window. The late night feeds are going alright, the 5am wake up calls I’m not too good at!"
Catch the full interview on Wednesday 2 December, 9pm on NITV (Ch34 & Foxtel 144).