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22 Mar 2018 22:47
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  •   Home > News > Sports

    NRL milestones? JT just happy to be back

    Johnathan Thurston admits he is just happy to be playing footy again ahead of his 300th NRL game and club-record 271st appearance for North Queensland.

    For eight months, North Queensland's Johnathan Thurston has been stranded on 299 NRL games.

    And, he has been one shy of eclipsing hero Matt Bowen's Cowboys' club record of 270 matches.

    But asked if he was relieved to finally run out for his milestone game in North Queensland's Friday night season opener at home against Cronulla, Thurston put his long-awaited comeback from a shoulder injury in perspective.

    "I'm just glad I am playing footy again," Thurston said.

    "I am enjoying my time around the boys at training and, even though it is a big week for us, we can't lose focus on what is important - that's two points.

    "It's been a long recovery back to this point but I have enjoyed it so far and am looking forward to the game."

    The 34-year-old will finally return from a shoulder injury that ended the playmaker's 2017 season after inspiring Queensland's State of Origin game-two win last June.

    It will mark the beginning of the end for Thurston, who has already retired from representative footy and will hang up the boots at the end of his 17th and final NRL season in 2018.

    The four-time Dally M Medallist and three-time Golden Boot winner becomes the 30th member of the NRL's exclusive 300-game club.

    However, leapfrogging his idol and former Cowboys livewire No.1 Bowen seemed to have a more profound effect on Thurston before kickoff.

    "He was a big reason why I moved to Townsville, to play alongside him and we formed such a really good combination," Thurston said.

    "I have a lot of great memories of playing alongside him so, to surpass him as the most-capped Cowboy, will be something that I look back on when I retire - but on Friday, we have a game to play."

    Thurston has had two trials to test his troublesome shoulder before taking on a Sharks outfit, who have added strike weapons Josh Dugan and Matt Moylan to their 2018 roster.

    "I am a lot more calm before this game," Thurston said.

    "The two trials, I got exactly what I wanted out of them and that gave me a bit of confidence in the defensive line and with the ball in my hands."

    Thurston might be starting his NRL swan song season but the playmaker has hinted Cowboys fans have not seen the last of him yet.

    Asked about a future Cowboys coaching role, Thurston said: "I obviously played a lot of footy alongside these boys so, no doubt, if (coach Paul Green) Greeny or coaching staff want me to help out in any capacity, I will be here.

    "Townsville is home."

    Thurston, who has also played 37 Origins for Queensland and 38 Tests, will receive the match ball on Friday night from ARLC chairman Peter Beattie.


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