Before this article kicks-off let me make one thing abundantly clear - Johnathan Thurston is a fantastic Rugby League Player.
But is he the best player in the game today?
When you then re-consider the quality of the players that the Cowboys have put on the field with Thurston over that time - there must be a massive sense of underachievement in North Queensland.
When North Queensland fans see Thurston play representative football there must be a mix of joy and bewilderment as their prized halfback is a world beater amongst the game's elite. But when he comes back to the NRL level - he just can't get the Cowboys across the line and while his competitiveness has always been there too see on the field for a few years now - in the last 12 months we have seen his competitiveness turn to despair and frustration as his efforts fail to lift the team he is expected to win games for.
In Round 12 against the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles we saw Johnathan Thurston finally lose it and remonstrate with referee Jason Robinson over a late forward pass call that stopped a late Cowboys charge to victory.
Here is the video of that incident... 37 seconds in is the start of the Thurston rant towards Robinson.
Incredibly Thurston was charged for dissent and then cleared on the basis that the referee - Jason Robinson - had not taken further action on the field (ie. sent Thurston to the sin bin) and thus, Thurston's lawyers argued, what Thurston had said did not warrant a suspension.
Thurston therefore avoided the only kind of penalty that truly makes it through the skull of a footballer (not playing because of what you did) - and was free to play in Queensland's record 5th straight State of Origin Series Victory.
Thurston said all the right things in the wake of his exoneration but it was apparent he didn't comprehend that what he did was wrong - in fact for him to say to youngsters to 'respect referees' in the wake of dodging suspension for failing to do just that was laughable.
Now we had a case in the Round 21 game against Penrith - of Thurston having his team penalised while in possession after he blew up at referee Tony De Las Heras for not giving the Cowboys an advantage after a Frank Pritchard knock on. Senior referee Steve Lyons let Thurston have his say but it was clear Lyons was not overly pleased with how Thurston had ripped into De Las Heras and the penalty stood.
When you consider how lucky Thurston had been in avoiding his suspension in Round 12 - one can only wonder if Thurston feels like he can get away with almost anything now.
In fact in the Daily Telegraph on Saturday July 31, Thurston had this to say about the incident:
"I am not sure," he said. "It all happened so quickly. He said 'you had your arms out like this' and I just asked where our advantage was."
Watching Thurston on NRL Tactics in a one on one interview with Andy Raymond - you can see he's a affable bloke but there can be no doubt whatsoever that when he steps on that Rugby League field at club level - the weight of expectation (his own & of others) coupled with his status in the game does not result in the same Johnathan Thurston we see in the rep arena.
Until he can arrest the Cowboys slide come 2011 and in the process find a change in attitude towards referees - he will not be considered the best player in the game in my books.
Perhaps the saddest aspect of Thurston's current situation is the NRL's softly softly approach with the temperamental elite in the game doesn't help his situation one iota.
Because when you consider the on-field demeanor of a Darren Lockyer vs a Johnathan Thurston - there is a truly extraordinary gap.
Thursday, 29 July 2010
|=| THIS WEEK'S VIDEO -
NOT The Footy Show Episode 32: NRL Rookie of the Year - Round 21 Preview
Jarryd Hayne's Planes, Trains & Automobiles... NOT The Footy Show Episode 32 Promo
Update July 30: South Sydney centre Beau Champion is out with a leg injury, Jamie Simpson comes into the lineup for him. Canterbury should be 1-17 although Shane Neumann could be a late withdrawal with the same injury that forced him from the field last weekend.