'Lessons from JT will stay with me forever': Martin
Johnathan Thurston played his final game of rugby league on Saturday night but an hour after full-time his legacy was already inspiring Cowboys teammate Te Maire Martin to vow to take his game to new heights.
An appreciative Martin spoke after Thurston's heroics lifted the Cowboys to a 30-26 win over the Titans in an emotion-charged send-off on the Gold Coast.
Martin was Thurston's halves partner in a game that he will never forget. It is Thurston's example that is set to light a path for the Kiwi international to follow for the rest of his life.
"The lessons I have learned from JT will stay with me forever," Martin told NRL.com
"Everyone talks about how much of a competitor he is and there were a few games where we were down by about 30 and everyone's heads were starting to drop, but he was always positive and had that 'never say never' attitude.
"You can't really teach it but when you watch him and are a part of a team JT is in it makes you want to strive harder and do the same thing.
"I don't know if he realises it, but he has had a lot of influence on me personally. Just the way he carries himself and competes makes me want to be the best that I can. The way he has played his career makes me just want to rip into this pre-season and make it a good one."
Thurston was humble and thankful throughout a season where his career was celebrated and remembered with fondness. He finished with a bang and fittingly set up his reliable partner Gavin Cooper for a try against the Titans with a pinpoint accurate kick, as he did for Kyle Feldt.
Martin said this season, despite being a poor one for the Cowboys, would remain a focal point for him thanks to Thurston.
"It has been a mind-blowing and really humbling feeling just being able to play next to him,” Martin said.
"To be alongside him through this last year, and especially for his last game, is really special.
"There were all sorts of emotions throughout the week but the way he carried himself and the way he played just showed what a true champion he is.
"I will always look back at this year and remember what he has done for the club, the team and myself."
Michael Morgan and hooker Jake Granville are certain starters in their positions of half and hooker for 2019. With the likely addition of Ben Barba to the squad next season the Cowboys will also have Martin, Ben Hampton and Jake Clifford all fighting for the other two positions in the spine.
"With Ben Barba looking at coming, Ben Hampton playing well at fullback the last few games and me and Jake there pushing for the number six jersey it makes you work a lot harder for your position," Martin said.
"I'll be trying my hardest to cement a spot in the six or the one and get a good pre-season under my belt.
"The bar is high now for any halves that come in and want to wear that seven jersey but I am sure Michael Morgan will wear the seven next year. We all saw how well he did last season and I am sure he will do that number seven jersey proud. Morgs is just as good with his running and kicking game."
Martin has embraced playing in a variety of positions and has improved his defensive clout in 2018.
"There is a lot of improvement to go but I played a bit of hooker, five-eighth and fullback this year and that has really helped my game," Martin said.
"I found when I was at hooker you are making that many tackles and it goes so fast, that if your halves aren't talking it is really difficult to know which way to go.
"So after I played hooker and went back to the halves I was a lot louder and more vocal."