Thurston anoints Titans as leaders
JOHNATHAN Thurston has anointed Titans Ryan James and Ash Taylor to carry on his legacy as indigenous leaders in the game.
Thurston rounded out his NRL career in front of a full house at Cbus Super Stadium on Saturday night, engineering a comeback win for the Cowboys.
An immortal-in-waiting, Thurston's deeds on the field rank him with the best ever to play rugby league.
But it is his work off the field that has elevated him to hero status in the wider community.
In a neat piece of symmetry for the Gold Coast, Thurston played in the first game at Robina in 2008 as well as ending his career here in the final game of the season a decade later.
And with the inaugural Indigenous All Stars game also in the city - an event that would have a massive impact on Thurston as a player and person - he said the Gold Coast would always hold a special place in his rugby league story.
"It probably does hold a special place in my heart, especially that Indigenous All Stars, that was really a telling point in my life and really opened up my eyes to what I wanted to do and what I wanted to achieve and how I wanted to be remembered," Thurston said.
After a session in which players explored their knowledge of their family history and background, Thurston realised he knew little of where he came from and vowed to learn more.
"I wanted to learn more about my family history and my culture and if it wasn't for that (All Stars session) then I wouldn't have been able to do that.
"Being able to go out where mum was born and grew up gave me an insight into where my family's come from and it's something that really struck a chord with me.
"I came out of that … (and) knew that I could make a difference.
"Rugby league has given me so much but also being able to make a difference throughout the community (is something I'm extremely proud of) and I understand that role now probably since that session."
But he is confident that his absence from the game will not leave a void in the indigenous space.
"I think our culture's got 13-14 per cent of the NRL, which is great, so we've got some players that will certainly take over the reins in that aspect," he said.
"Ryan James, GI (Greg Inglis), Ash Taylor and the like - so they're all good people and they'll do our culture extremely proud."
Taylor said to be earmarked by Thurston was a privilege.
"I'm obviously very honoured to hear that from the GOAT (greatest of all time) himself," Taylor said.
"He drives us indigenous boys a long way when we're in camp and on the field.
"He was on the same track as me, he didn't get there by the easy road. I'm taking the tough road, it's been a tough season.
"But I'm going to learn from it and come back even stronger next year."
James said while Thurston was a great player, it was his impact off the field that would be most felt.
"What he's done for football reaches way further than footy - the work he does in community and the impact he's had on the game and people around the game is second to none," James said.
"He's definitely going to go down as a future immortal."