David Stuart

OPINION: Don't tag Thurston an Immortal for grand final win

IF THOSE pessimists among us have their way, Johnathan Thurston now has the green light to be voted an Immortal.

What a load of rubbish.

The Cowboys winning last night's grand final may add to the record of the greatly-decorated 32-year-old, but it does not define him. Thurston has long been an Immortal.

Okay, in the world of NRL, Thurston is not officially an Immortal.

To join living legends Johnny Raper, Bob Fulton, Graeme Langlands, Wally Lewis and Andrew Johns in that elite group, the minimum qualification is retirement.

And Thurston says that won't be the case for at least three more years.

So all those naysayers can stop panicking. From a member of the judging panel that anointed the past four inductees, be rest assured Thurston will one day be officially immortalised.

It is merely a matter of time.

But he doesn't need that gong to designate his greatness.

And he didn't need last night's win either, although it certainly filled his personal big dance card.

One of the foremost reasons so many wanted the Cowboys to win the 2015 premiership was the champion No.7 himself.

Even those who despised him during State of Origin loved him last night.

As his career blossomed and he outgrew his naughty-boy ways, Thurston graduated to a likeable rogue.

Then, as he assumed more responsibility and became the Cowboys skipper, he soon converted to charismatic champion of the people.

Once his public persona developed and he evolved into a popular subject for TV interviews, fans could not get enough of his garrulous laugh.

Combined with an engaging smile, that laugh greatly endeared him to fan and foe alike.

But it was Thurston's respect of young fans, most notably the kids who delivered his kicking tee, which won him a gold medal in the admiration stakes.

Now almost every goalkicker in the NRL dutifully retrieves his tee and hands it to the ball boy.

There is also his half-time headgear giveaway.

Little Oscar in Melbourne last weekend might be the most recent delighted recipient, but Madison - his headgear manufacturer - estimates his gesture has thrilled as many as 300 kids over the past six years.

And then, to put the cherry on his playing cake, Thurston became the first to win four Dally M player of the year medals and assert his unquestionable position in the game.

The recognition came two nights after he had the presence of mind to chase off a pesky seagull to allow opposing skipper Cameron Smith a kick at goal.

Those incidental dynamics combine to prove that JT is already an Immortal.

Last night's win might add to the lustre, but it won't change the man or his status in the game.

He is, in the simplest of terms, a champion of the game and a champion of the people.

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