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Johnathan Thurston during the Cowboys' shock loss to Parramatta in Round 2.

Fans around the world have an obsession with labelling the greatest players in their chosen sport.

It is equally the most interesting and most pointless of debates that sport fans busy themselves with the world over. 

From football's annual debate between Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi (don't forget Pele), to basketball's debate about LeBron James and Michael Jordan (enter Stephen Curry), finding the 'GOAT' (greatest of all time) is one of our favourite pastimes. 

With the advent of social media and an always-connected sport community, it has become the all-absorbing, time consuming cyclic debate at pubs, clubs and family barbecues across the country.

In cricket there is relatively no debate about the greatest of all time, disregarding India's passion for Sachin Tendulkar, in a heavily stat-based game, no one comes close to the Don. He's untouchable which ruins the fun.

That was simply unacceptable to cricket fans so they solved that problem with some clever syntax, another metric was needed: the "best since Bradman". 

Let the debate continue. 

And so we move to the topical debate of the current rugby league landscape – a question that seemingly demands answering today. Is Johnathan Thurston the greatest to ever lace the boot?

Better than Andrew Johns, Darren Lockyer, Wally Lewis, Clive Churchill, Reg Gasnier, Bob Fulton, Graham Langlands, Johnny Raper, Norm Provan, Dally Messenger, Arthur Beetson, Ken Irvine, Bradley Clyde et al.?

The crowd is clamouring to rank 'JT' against the best since 1908 and they want instant gratification.

Each game that passes the conversation grows. Every time Thurston shows us something, the chatter builds. It started with hushed tones and whispers, but it has exploded into mainstream in the last few seasons.

How do you quantify it, where do you even start in a team sport played by many different shapes and sizes with completely different roles?

Provan won 10 Premierships in a row, he even captain-coached and was immortalised as one half of the NRL trophy renamed in his honour. There is no more famous image in rugby league. 

Irvine scored 212 tries and no one has come remotely close since. 

Churchill – heck 'The Little Master' has the grand final's best player award named after him! 

Messenger – four of the awards hanging around Thurston's neck are named after him (Dally M medal). Tells you about the kind of player he was. 

Lewis, he was simply dubbed 'The King'.

Johns, named halfback of the century, apparently a decent player to boot. 

Thurston? Four Dally M medals, three Golden Boot awards, two Premierships, a Clive Churchill medal, a World Cup in 2013 including man-of-the-match awards in all four games he played and a seemingly endless number of State of Origin series wins for Queensland for good measure.

The most important thing? He's still going, still adding to his legend every time he takes the field. 

Who is the greatest? 

It only matters in our minds, but as sport fans, we love the argument. 

Let's go through that list again. 

Sliding doors moment

The greatest? There are so many 'what if' moments that go into a rugby league team and their chances of success. What if the Bulldogs had kept Thurston instead of Brent Sherwin at the end of 2004? What if Thurston had in fact decided to go to Penrith instead of changing his mind at the last minute to stay with the Cowboys? It is amazing to think what might have been. 

The Cowboys would never have won the title without Thurston, in fact their 2015 season would have imploded after just four rounds. History would look very different and Thurston's place might have changed remarkably. Still, Thurston stayed and led the Cowboys to their first ever premiership, kicking a field goal to win the biggest game of the year in one of the greatest grand finals ever seen. It was the ultimate moment to immortalize one of the greatest ever. 

How different it could have been.

Another point

It was the worst game the Broncos and Cowboys have played in their previous four encounters, but it will still go down as one of the best of the season and an absolute epic with the Cowboys fighting their way back from 18-6 to steal the game with a Thurston field goal. It added another thrilling chapter to one of rugby league's best rivalries. It is the first time since 1928 that two sides have played out three consecutive one-point games. At the moment, there isn't anything better in rugby league than watching these two champion Queensland sides duke it out. 

Hopefully they'll meet again sometime in September or October. 

Sportsmanship gone wrong

When Rabbitoh Kirisome Auva'a stayed back in the in-goal to lift up fallen Dragon Gareth Widdop, it looked like a nice spot of sportsmanship in a brutal game, however, it ended with the Dragons immediately shifting the ball from the 20 metre tap and scoring down the flank Auva'a should have been. It is hard to fault Auva'a at all, but we bet next time he'll race back into position before thinking of lifting up an opponent.

Women's game

Write it in your calendar, the Women's Interstate Challenge between Queensland and New South Wales will be held on July 23 at Cbus Super Stadium. The Maroons will be looking to retain the title for an incredible 18th year after being held to a draw for the first time in 2015. With participation in the women's game up 30 per cent year on year and historic new pathways introduced, this rivalry is only going to get bigger and better. 


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National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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