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Johnathan Thurston is universally regarded as a competitor, a skilled playmaker, a leader and a great contributor to the community.

But when you ask the people who coached him and played with and against him, it becomes apparent he is the ultimate professional.

An quote from a anonymous source reads: "Amateurs practise until they get it right; professionals practise until they can't get it wrong."

In the 2015 grand final, Thurston dropped the ball for a field goal attempt and in the slow motion replay it looks like a dog's breakfast.

The ball is askew, falling flat. It is also 82 minutes into the toughest game of his career, but it still sails through the posts to land North Queensland their maiden premiership and hand Brisbane their first loss in a grand final.

According to his crestfallen opposing number seven that night Ben Hunt, the result was a foregone conclusion.

"As soon as I dropped the ball I knew it was over. I knew who they had  kicking the ball, they had Johnathan Thurston, so I knew it was coming," Hunt said.

In the lead-up to the final Telstra Premiership game of his glittering career, the tributes from teammates and rivals are a true indicator of the regard Thurston is held in.

JT: From larrikin to legend

Josh Mansour (Penrith Panthers player): "That grand final field goal, I don't think anyone can forget that. It gives me goosebumps thinking about it every time. To come back and win it like that was freakish."

Billy Slater (Melbourne Storm fullback): "Being a North Queensland boy I was very proud when he kicked that field goal. That was a fantastic moment."

Michael Morgan (Cowboys teammate): "He's had more influence on this club than any player that's been here before."

Cameron Smith (Storm hooker, Maroons and Kangaroos teammate): "For a kid that was told he was too small and wouldn't make it in the NRL, I think he's proved everyone wrong."

Paul Green (Cowboys coach): "Players that play in his position that are as durable as him always have to contend with [injury]. He's shown that time and time again. He's certainly a terrific competitor, he plays tough, plays well above his weight."

Gavin Cooper (Cowboys teammate): "Everyone keeps talking about this skinny little kid from Toowoomba that no one gave a shot, but he just stuck in there and his determination and competitiveness got him to where he is."

Cowboys director of football Peter Parr: "I think longevity is the hallmark of all champions, so the fact that he was dominating 2014 and 2015 the same way that he was in 2005 when he was ten years older, I think that's the hallmark of a champion."

Parr corroborates most people's assessment of Thurston as the ultimate competitor.

"What sets him apart is that he is competitive no matter what the scoreboard says or how long there is to go in the game. He competes to the death whether the game can be won or not," he said.

Cowboys captain Johnathan Thurston.
Cowboys captain Johnathan Thurston. ©Scott Davis/NRL Photos

As for why he is a champion, it's undoubtedly the little moments in the biggest games that separate the Immortals from mortals.

"He executes under pressure, he does that better than most, in the heat of the moment, when everything is on the line, he wants to be the man," Parr said.

In 2015, Thurston's willingness to be better, his desire to compete, and his insistence on being the one to step up to the mark was the difference.

All the things that make him a professional.

Cooper sad to see JT go

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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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