An ode to Thurston: A freak, a genius, a special champion
WHAT more can be said or written about Johnathan Dean Thurston?
To have the mental toughness to kick the field goal to win one of, if not the greatest grand final in modern times, a few minutes after his heart sank in his chest when his potential game-winning sideline conversion hit the upright says everything about the quality of the man.
It's doubtful there has been a more popular victory than North Queensland's emotion-charged, heart-stopping 17-16 win in front an enthralled record audience of 82,787.
Not one of them will ever forget the dramatic 82 minutes when two magnificent Queensland sides went into battle.
There had to be a winner.
But it took a freak, a genius, a special champion, a player who is never, ever beaten, with nerves of steel and ice in his veins to split two champion sides who gave every last breath and every last ounce of energy they had left in their pain-racked body.
This will be a grand final that will be talked about, re-lived and re-told for years to come, from generation to generation.
It will be rugby league folklore in North Queensland and Thurston will be an immortal.
Brisbane led 16-12 with 79 minutes and 55 seconds of the grand final gone.
But Thurston never quits.
With time running out, he evaded several Brisbane defenders before throwing a pass to Michael Morgan who used his speed to race to the right hand side, somehow getting a one handed flick pass to winger Kyle Feldt who claimed his place in history.
Thurston thought he'd kicked the match-winning goal.
But the ball failed to hook quite enough and rebounded off the right-hand upright as Thurston screamed in disbelief.
"I thought I had enough on it, I thought it was coming back," said Thurston who has kicked 971 career goals.
"I was celebrating a bit too early."
Golden point is such a cruel way to split two wonderful sides who've busted their guts for 80 minutes.
What followed was hysteria for Cowboys' fans and a cruel mistake that could haunt young Brisbane halfback Ben Hunt until he wins a premiership of his own.
Rugby league can be a cruel game.
Hunt was earlier placed on report for a lifting tackle that gave the Cowboys the penalty leading up to Feldt's miraculous try that levelled the scores at 16-all as the siren sounded.
It's easy to say "that's football".
But for Hunt, who had a wonderful season, it will take a lot of consoling and soul searching to get over the gut-wrenching loss, if he ever does.
Brisbane captain Justin Hodges paid tribute to Thurston and the Cowboys after being denied a fairytale farewell that looked on the cards until the dramatic dying minutes.
"They (Cowboys) have been a quality side all year and they are led by the greatest player of all time in Thurston," Hodges conceded after the one point loss.
Brisbane forward Sam Thaiday urged Hunt and his team-mates to keep their heads up.
"To all you Broncos fans I'm sorry but this group of boys will get it done for you," he said.