He is widely regarded as one of the greatest of all time.
But Johnathan Thurston couldn’t disagree more.
JT, an icon and a hero to many in both hemispheres believes there are only a few who deserve that title, including some of his own team-mates of the past.
“It goes through one ear and out of the other when people say that,” Thurston said.
“It’s very humbling that people see me in that way, but I don’t.
“Locky (Darren Lockyer) was an idol of mine and the greatest for me. Then the amount of footy I’ve played with (Cameron) Smith, I think he’s the greatest I’ve ever seen.
“I’m very honoured and humbled that people see me in that way. If I’ve inspired them in any way then that’s a good thing and having them see me in that way is humbling, but I don’t see it that way myself.”
Thurston was speaking on the first date of his UK tour, entertaining crowds over five nights on a trip from Down Under.
“I’ve always enjoyed coming over here,” he said,
“Some of the grounds I’ve played at here bring the best memories. The 2016 World Club Challenge, jumping the fence and being in the crowd at Headingley. The World Cup Final at Old Trafford in 2013, and Anfield in 2016. In 2009 I remember Elland Road. We had a really good time, it was a group of good boys I toured with, they become your family.”
He had several opportunities to spend a more extended period of time in the country during his playing days. As his NRL career was coming to a close, he was approached by Warrington about a move to the club. Ultimately, he declined. The Wolves got Tyrone Roberts instead.
“I never really entertained the thought of coming over here, to be honest. Once I had a family I didn’t want to pack them up and away to the other side of the world. It didn’t feel right for me.”
Rather than extend his career in Super League, he hung up the boots. He is two seasons retired now but, while it is a transition many find difficult, it has been to the benefit of his health, physically and mentally.
“I miss parts of the game. The camaraderie, the locker room. And the big games, the Origins and the Tests, that’s the part I miss about the game.
“But I’m retired and now I’ve stepped away, other opportunities have opened up and I feel a lot better mentally than when I was playing because to be at the top you’ve got to be mentally on top of your game and all aspects of your game and your life. Not having that stress and strain has left me in a really good headspace.”
Now, a large amount of his time is spent pursuing other passions. Most impressively, Thurston has set up his own academy, which looks to provide opportunity, education and employment opportunities in Australia.
His efforts saw him named Australia’s humanitarian of the year – a far cry from his teenage days when he spent his time stealing cars.
“I want to use my profile as a platform to make a difference in the community,” he said.
“If you look at the full extent of what our culture has been through, I want to provide opportunities and a platform for the new generation to be the best they can be. Rugby League has provided me with the opportunity to do that, and now I want to give back and do the same for the future of our country.
“When I was writing my book I was debating whether to keep certain things in about my past. But I was open and honest, there were things in there I wasn’t proud of. My story is different to a lot of other stories but it’s unique in that sense. I hope people read it and it inspires them to persevere, makes them more resilient and determined to chase their dream.”