STILL GOING STRONG: The potential to win back-to-back premierships with North Queensland no doubt has Johnathan Thurston motivated in season 2016.
STILL GOING STRONG: The potential to win back-to-back premierships with North Queensland no doubt has Johnathan Thurston motivated in season 2016. Ian Hitchcockgetty Images

Thurston has more to achieve with the Cowboys

OKAY, I'll put my hand up and admit it.

I didn't say it out loud because I've learned the hard way that champions can, and do, make fools of people.

But in the back of my mind I was wondering if Johnathan Thurston could continue playing at such a high level after winning an unprecedented fourth Dally M Medal and finally delivering his beloved North Queensland Cowboys their maiden NRL premiership last season.

Would he still have the motivation to push both his mind and body to those same levels of excellence every week in 2016?

After all, this is a guy who has done it all. He has won medals named after some of league's greats, Norm Provan and Arthur Summons, Wally Lewis, Clive Churchill, Ron McAuliffe, Ken Stephens, former rugby league journalist Allan Clarkson and also Graham Murray, a man who was instrumental in his career as coach of the Cowboys before he died in 2013.

At 32, and turning 33 next month, would Thurston still have the drive, the desire, the passion to give so much of himself after what must have been a mentally and physically draining season last year?

Not only did he help Queensland win back the State of Origin series, he also brought the Cowboys back from a 0-3 start to win a monumental grand final 17-16.

For most players, that would have be the perfect stage to drop the curtain on a special career.

But then JT is not most players.

He is in a league of his own, or at least a group of very special players who call full time on their own terms.

Master coach Wayne Bennett always reminds players of the risks of playing one year too many, because he knows how incredibly hard it is to stay the word "retire".

Most great players know when it's time to call it a day and when the body will no longer do what the mind wants, but the heart and courage are always there.

Some, like Darren Lockyer, may lose some pace, but they more than make up for that with what's between their ears and the way they control football games.

It's taken JT just three games to show he hasn't lost any of the qualities that make him so great, or the wonderful competitive nature that sets him apart from the rest.

Leading his team to back-to-back premierships suddenly sounds like pretty good motivation.



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