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Renouf: JT's rise from unwanted youngster to NRL legend

Johnathan Thurston will be an Immortal one day so it is now hard to believe that when he was a teenager there were so many clubs that didn't believe he had what it took to be an NRL player.

They kept saying 'no' but JT did not take no for an answer.

If youngsters get told they can't make it and they know in their mind they can, then they just need to look at Johnathan's example to keep them going. It is an inspirational story about never giving up.

JT has spoken about this and how it was a great motivator for him as a lad. You get told that enough times and you don't forget. When you get told that you aren't wanted by so many NRL clubs at once you've got to keep going and be patient. Johnathan knew he could play the game and he kept backing himself.

What JT has done for generations of players to come is very powerful because of what he has become.

Canterbury gave him a go, he wins a grand final and then finds himself at the Cowboys where he has shaped an entire club and become one of the greatest players of all time.

JT's Career Highlights

I'd watched him play off the bench for the Bulldogs early on in his career and he was this skinny little Murri kid who seemed to have a way of getting through the line. When he didn't he would get belted but he'd get straight back up. He was tough as nails and that hasn't changed throughout his career.

As a competitor he is second to none. His great quality has always been that wherever the ball is, JT is there. We've seen it so many times where he can make a tackle on one side of the field and then a guy can be going into touch on the other and he's there. He has a motor on him.

We have seen Johnathan step up in the big moments to win games with his own brand of magic. The golden point field in the 2015 grand final is one that he will always be remembered for but I could take up this whole column talking about his match winning history.

It is his mental capacity as an athlete that has stood out and enabled him to do that.

One often overlooked trait of JT's is how he makes those around him better. You look at the combination he has struck up with Gavin Cooper as a one-two punch. Johnathan had it with Matty Bowen, but now he has it with a second-rower.

I met Johnathan at a sports dinner at Toowoomba when he was a young fella at Canterbury and he was very quiet. We went out and had a few beers and  I thought he was just a lovely lad. Little did I realise what he was to become.

I look at him now and it is just a credit to him that he is a rugby league icon. The influence he has had, and will continue to have, on the Aboriginal community and the rugby league community in general is just phenomenal.

Players pay tribute to Thurston

Even as a young man he had special qualities. We saw that when he gave his premiership ring to Steve Price after he won the 2004 grand final.

No one prompted him to do that. He chose to do it on that day and it just shows what sort of person he is. We've seen him give away his headgear in each game for a long while now and that no doubt would be a motivator to all the young people that receive it to try and emulate what JT has done.

Johnathan is going to inspire young kids to play rugby league for generations to come, and that is a big thing.

He is about to transition into life after football and I am sure he will be busy. It is a different discipline he will have to get his head around. When I finished rugby league I found plenty to keep me busy away from the game, while also staying in touch with it.

He has a wonderful support base with his wife Samantha and his family around him to help him through this next phase. The sky is the limit for JT after his last game for the Cowboys on Saturday night.  

I am certain that when the Immortals from this generation are named in the future that Johnathan and his great mate Cameron Smith will be inducted together. It will be a great honour and well deserved.

Acknowledgement of Country

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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