Johnathan Thurston believes avoiding the wooden spoon will be just as important for the Cowboys in next Friday night’s match against Parramatta as farewelling him in his final home appearance for the club.
After losing 28-16 to Cronulla in his last match in Sydney on Saturday night, Thurston will play one final home game in Townsville before finishing his illustrious career on the Gold Coast as week later.
However, Thurston’s focus is on helping North Queensland beat Parramatta to climb off the bottom rung of the Telstra Premiership ladder rather than farewell celebrations.
“It’s extremely important,” Thurston said of the game which is expected to decide which club receives the dreaded wooden spoon.
“We have certainly got one fight on our hands and the boys have got to make sure we turn up with the right intent throughout the week and give ourselves the best preparation we can heading into Friday night.
“I am obviously experienced enough to keep a lid on it with the playing group. Matty Scott’s 250th is coming up as well so it is important as a team that we prepare well and give ourselves every chance of winning the game.”
Thurston laid on a try for second rower Coen Hess and tried hard to steer the Cowboys to a win over the Sharks but a number of his passes went to ground and he missed a sideline conversion in the 73rd minute that would have levelled the scores at 18-18.
The 35-year-old superstar, described by veteran Cronulla captain Paul Gallen – a long time State of Origin rival and Australian team-mate - as a “future Immortal", said he was now acutely aware that the end was near and he wanted to enjoy his remaining games.
“I’ve known for a long time now so for me it is about making sure I prepare the best I can for my team-mates, for my coaching staff and I enjoy what’s left,” Thurston said.
“There is only two games to go, and speaking to a lot of past players, what they miss the most is the locker room so I am just savouring those moments I get with the boys.”
The Sharks presented Thurston with an indigenous jersey after the match and Gallen paid tribute to the former Kangaroos and Maroons playmaker, who began his career with Canterbury in 2002.
“He’s a legend of the game without a doubt,” Gallen said. “I played my first game against him in 2002 when I got put back to reserve grade and played against the Bulldogs. Here we are 16 years later playing against each other for the final time in Sydney.
“As much rivalry as we have had, and words on the field, every time we have played together or toured and played for Australia we have always been good mates and I have got enormous respect for him.
“I am writing a book at the moment and he is in my top five players of all time. He is a legend we know that.”