Thurston despised today but loved tomorrow

Cowboys skipper Johnathan Thurston is swamped by teammates after kicking a field goal to down the Brisbane Broncos in extra time on Friday night.
Cowboys skipper Johnathan Thurston is swamped by teammates after kicking a field goal to down the Brisbane Broncos in extra time on Friday night. DAVE HUNT

THE next time Johnathan Thurston steps onto Suncorp Stadium he will have the support of all Queenslanders, from Wallangarra to Weipa.

But for many of the 47,703 who were at that very same stadium on Friday night, it is becoming increasingly difficult to open their arms, and their hearts, to embrace someone who will unquestionably be remembered as one of the greatest escape artists since Houdini.

To Broncos fans Thurston has become an absolute pain in the butt. In four of the past five games the teams have played - three of which have gone into extra time - it has been the champion Cowboys five-eighth who has delivered the knockout punch.

First it was the 2015 grand final, with a field goal three minutes into extra time. Then last season he did it twice in Townsville; firstly with a field goal five minutes from the end in round 11, then in the semi-final when his magic hands put Michael Morgan over in the ninth minute of extra time.

On Friday night he was at it again, calmly potting the decisive one point after the Broncos had a couple of unsuccessful and, let's face it, feeble attempts.

But the bottom line is that very few in this current NRL can control a game of footy and pull off that clutch play as confidently, and as expertly, as JT.

By his lofty standards, Friday night's display from him was below par. He made one handling error, missed two tackles and failed to make a line break.

But, as is his wont, Thurston was there for the clutch play.

Almost as incredible as Thurston's capacity to haunt the Broncos is the quality and closeness of recent matches.

In the past dozen meetings five games have been split by a miserly point and in the corresponding clash at Suncorp last year the Broncos won by the same 21-20 scoreline as Friday night with a field goal by Anthony Milford in extra time.

And while Broncos fans may have zilch love for JT, many might concur with his assessment of golden point.

His theory - as has been mine for an age now - is that each team gets a point for a draw and the one that wins in extra time earns a bonus point.

But when emotions are put to one side and reality faced, that hackneyed phrase 'footy is the winner' was never more apt after Friday night's absolute epic.

Played at an incredible pace and skill with no wrestle, no spite and very few refereeing blunders, the game was mesmerising.

And while the Broncos may not have earned a premiership point, they can rest assured by their performance that they have what it takes to go deep into this competition.

But maybe, just maybe, with JT on board the Cowboys might go a little deeper.

Topics:  brisbane broncos johnathan thurston monday magistrate north queensland cowboys rugby league sportopinion tony durkin

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