Johnathan Thurston with fans during the Cowboys' premiership trophy tour of North Queensland.

His on-field efforts to bring the Cowboys a maiden premiership have been lauded around the world but Johnathan Thurston has been honoured for his work in the North Queensland community with an honorary doctorate from James Cook University.

An Honorary Doctor of Letters is one of the highest honours that the Townsville university can bestow and completes an unforgettable year for Thurston who won the Telstra Premiership with the Cowboys, the State of Origin shield with Queensland, a record third Golden Boot as the world's best player and also married long-time partner Samantha Lynch.

James Cook University’s Chancellor, Lt. Gen. John Grey AC (Retired) said Thurston deserved to be recognised for the positive influence that stretches far beyond the football field.

"He is a mentor to so many in North Queensland and beyond," Chancellor Grey said.

"The qualities he displays – humility, sportsmanship, leadership, mateship, and loyalty to his community – are widely respected.

"Johnathan Thurston is an inspiration to youth and the broader community.

"Aside from his exceptional sporting achievements, he has shown what can be achieved by working with communities to achieve a brighter future."

The Cowboys co-captain who was on Tuesday named to captain the Indigenous All Stars in Brisbane on February 13 said it was an amazing way to end an incredible year.

"It has been an amazing year for me personally and professionally, and I am really excited to be finishing the year with this honour," Thurston said.

"I take pride in the work I do and the time I spend in the community. I am passionate about North Queensland and the North Queensland people.

"I believe that the way forward for Indigenous people is through education and I am committed to using my profile to assist that cause in any way possible.

"Thank you to James Cook University for recognising the work I do away from the football field."