Cameron Smith and Johnathan Thurston carved out iconic rugby league careers together. Picture: AAP Image/Dave Hunt
Cameron Smith and Johnathan Thurston carved out iconic rugby league careers together. Picture: AAP Image/Dave Hunt

Mighty Maroons honoured on Queen’s Birthday list

THE first time Cameron Smith spotted Johnathan Thurston, he was nine years old and heartbroken.

"I remember JT throwing an intercept pass during a game in under-10s in Brisbane,'' Smith said.

"My teammate ran three-quarters of the length of the field for a try and after celebrating I turned around to see JT down on the turf crying about what had just happened. That just shows the competitor he was and how much the game meant to him at such an early age.

"I saw the tears of a fierce competitor.''

Thurston, the North Queensland Cowboys legend, and Smith, the Logan-raised hooker who led the Melbourne Storm, Queensland and Australia to glory, have been made Members in the General Division of the Order of Australia - AM's - and the joy for both is accentuated because they received it on the same day.

"It makes it more special because he is being honoured as well," Thurston said.

"I remember we made a southeast Brisbane side as kids and he was playing in the halves. We did a tackling drill and he cut me in half and knocked my knees together. I said 'dude, it is just a tackling drill'. He went really hard but he prided himself on his training and still does.''

Smith added: "JT and I have been very fortunate to share some very special moments in our football career and in our life away from the playing field. I am extremely proud to share this honour with an amazing person who I'm lucky enough to call my mate.

For Thurston, the honour comes at a transitional stage of his life, his first season in retirement where his diary is filled with his commitments to good causes, including his own academy.

"Obvious rugby league has finished but the next chapter is only just beginning," he said.

"I am passionate about indigenous affairs, especially in the education space. I will continue in that space for a very long time. It's an honour to be recognised for my service to rugby league and being a role model.

"It has not been easy at times.''

Rugby life gave rare privileges

NOT until Stephen Moore retired did the Wallabies great get to fully reflect on how his sport had created the rare privilege of meetings with Nelson Mandela and the Queen.

He had been wearing a Wallabies jersey for just six weeks in 2005 when president Mandela was introduced to the team amid a roaring Ellis Park in Johannesburg.

"I was thinking 'how good is this?' but with perspective you realise how special the opportunities were that rugby gave me," Moore, 36, said.

 

Stephen Moore with his 6-year-old son, Theodore. Picture: Tara Croser.
Stephen Moore with his 6-year-old son, Theodore. Picture: Tara Croser.

 

A decade later, Moore was leader of the Wallabies when ushered to a special function for rugby's World Cup captains and coaches in London during the 2015 tournament.

"Getting a call to say we're off to Buckingham Palace and to be driven through the front gates to meet the Queen was pretty surreal," Moore said.

"When you are out of the game you can't do it again which is why I'll always say enjoy every moment you can pull on the jersey and make people proud of what you do."

Being awarded an AM (member in the General Division of the Order of Australia) in the Queen's Birthday Honours List is not just for his service to rugby union over a career of 129 Tests (2005-17), including 26 as captain.

It's how he represented the Wallabies, Queensland Reds and ACT Brumbies and used his voice to magnify the reach of charitable groups and his role as an executive ambassador at last year's Invictus Games.

In his six-year-old son Theo, Moore is seeing the same enthusiasm he had as a kid in Mount Morgan.

"Theo loves his footy … so it's that first-hand look at where it all starts," he said.

 

Parents would be so proud

WHEN Li Cunxin found out he was about to receive a Queen's Birthday Honour his thoughts turned to his parents.

Li, 58, artistic director of Queensland Ballet, has been named an Officer (AO) in the General Division of the Order of Australia.

The world famous former dancer, who defected to the West in 1981, wrote about his life's story in his best selling memoir Mao's Last Dancer which was made into a film by Australian ­director Bruce Beresford.

Queensland ballet artistic director Li Cunxin. Picture: Liam Kidston.
Queensland ballet artistic director Li Cunxin. Picture: Liam Kidston.

Yesterday Li reflected on his AO. "When I heard, the first thing I thought was - what would my humble peasant parents have thought?" Li said.

"They are both dead now but they would have been so surprised and excited by this.

"How could they ever have imagined that one of their seven peasant sons would become a famous dancer and eventually be honoured in this way? They came to Australia twice and they loved it, they fell in love with Australia."

Li was the sixth of seven brothers born into poverty in the Li Commune near the city of Qingdao in the People's ­Republic of China.

At age 11 he was plucked from obscurity, chosen by ­Madame Mao's cultural advisers to attend the Beijing Dance Academy, where students trained 16 hours a day.

He became principal artist at the Beijing Dance Academy and defected while dancing with the Houston Ballet.

"I am very pleased to receive this honour for doing what I love," Li said.

 

It's time for a 'Minister of Beaches'

COASTAL conservation campaigner Brad Farmer has used his honour as a Member of the Order of Australia to call on Prime Minister Scott Morrison to appoint a "Minister for Beaches".

 

Conservationist Brad Farmer.
Conservationist Brad Farmer.

 

The Gold Coaster received his AM for services to surfing, conservation and communities.

While proud to accept the award, Mr Farmer - a former Greenpeace activist who founded environmental groups Surfrider Foundation Australia and National and World Surfing Reserves - said he wanted to use it as "a platform" to push for better protection of the coastline.

He is calling for national coastal and marine legislation, a federal minister for coastal and marine resources and a national coastal and marine commission. Mr Farmer, 59, warned the ­nation's 11,736 beaches were not being properly protected.

"The sustainability of our coastline hangs in the balance with impending commercial and foreign threats, under a total lack of any protective framework," he said.

 

Justice honoured for legal service

A BRISBANE judge has been recognised for her contribution to the law in this weekend's Queen's Birthday honours list.

 

Justice Debra Mullins.
Justice Debra Mullins.

 

Queensland Supreme Court Justice Debra Mullins, who was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia, has sat on the bench since 2000.

She was the Commissioner of the Queensland Law Reform Commission and a Queen's Counsel prior to her appointment as a judge. Ms Mullins was yesterday awarded as an Officer in the General Division for her service to the law and judiciary and for her commitment to professional development, legal education and women.

Outside her legal career, Ms Mullins, of Greenslopes, has been the Chancellor of the Anglican Diocese of Brisbane for the past five years and is the chair of the Anglican Church of Australia's Church Law Commission of General Synod. She has also been chair of Griffith University's Visiting Committee Advisory Board since 2015.