Thurston ready for mammoth 2017 and beyond
The end to one of the great rugby league careers the game has ever known is fast coming to a close, and Johnathan Thurston knows it.
But rather than putting the handbrake on in order to eke out an extra year or two in the Telstra Premiership, Thurston is preparing to play as much football as he can before he eventually has to walk away.
For the first time Thurston's 2017 season begins in Auckland at the Downer NRL Auckland Nines on Saturday and will end hopefully with a Rugby League World Cup final appearance with the Kangaroos at Suncorp Stadium 301 days later.
Next week he will return to the Indigenous All Stars camp that he holds so dear, will be one of the first players chosen for the mid-year Test against the Kiwis and will line up for his 13th and final Origin Series for Queensland.
It's a workload that could total as many as 10 games on top of his commitment with the North Queensland Cowboys but the 33-year-old says now is not the time to be missing games of footy.
"I've only got hopefully two years left so I want to play as much football as I can," said Thurston, who was the star attraction at the Auckland Nines Fan Day on Friday.
"It's coming to an end very soon, the game that I love, the game that I've known since I was a kid and I want to enjoy these next couple of years."
With representatives from the RLPA in Auckland this weekend to canvass the opinions of senior players such as Thurston the hope is that the RLPA and NRL will soon come to an agreement regarding the Collective Bargaining Agreement and future figure of the salary cap.
As he himself tries to finalise a new contract with the Cowboys for one final season in 2018, Thurston is confident that his body that has been subjected to more than 360 games at NRL, Origin and Test level can hold together long enough for a 17th season in the Telstra Premiership.
"I'm pretty confident of running around again next year," Thurston said.
"Obviously need to get through this year first but there's a lot of footy to be played and looking forward to the year.
"I've been training really well, I've come back in good shape before I was required to be back at training so the body's feeling good and the contract stuff will come in due course but it's pretty hard to do that when no one knows what the salary cap is going to be."