For so long the North Queensland Cowboys were the laughing stock of the NRL.
A wooden spoon in their inaugural season in 1995 – that brought just two wins – was followed up by another last place finish in the truncated Super League competition in 1997.
The new millennium in 2000 brought more unwanted cutlery and another season to forget.
Meanwhile “Big Brother” the Brisbane Broncos were accumulating premierships almost at will.
Title triumphs in 1992 and 1993 were added to with the Super League gong in 1997 and the first NRL premiership in 1998.
The Broncos claimed another premiership, just for fun, in 2000.
But 2004 marked a coming of age for the Cowboys with their first finals appearance and, just as importantly, their first ever win over Brisbane – a gritty 10-0 triumph in Townsville in the semi-finals before 24,989 ecstatic fans.
The Cowboys bowed out in the preliminary final to Sydney Roosters the next week, but Townsville was now officially on the footballing map.
Next came the acquisition of Thurston, the Cowboys most important signing ever, for 2005 after he had played off the bench in Canterbury’s 2004 grand final win.
And sure enough Thurston took North Queensland to their first grand final the following year against another outfit seeking their maiden triumph, the Wests Tigers, who won the day.
As if almost in response Brisbane claimed another premiership in 2006, their last grand final appearance.
North Queensland failed to make the finals in 2006, before a heartbreaking preliminary final exit – after finishing the regular season third – sent the Cowboys out in 2007.
Then followed a return to the dark ages.
In 2008 just five wins left the Cowboys equal last.
Finals were watched from afar by Cowboys again in 2009. Only Melbourne’s points deduction for salary cap breaches saved North Queensland last place in 2010.
Seventh place in 2011 ushered them back into the September action only to fall at the first hurdle and the door was opened on a series of finals heartbreaks.
The next season brought the Hand of Foran, as Manly beat them in the semi-finals.
In 2013, Cronulla were awarded a seven tackle try in their 20-18 but the Cowboys did have an opportunity to win it in the dying stages.
Last year, Thurston thought he’d scored the match-winner in the semi-final against Sydney Roosters, only for it to be called back legitimately for a knock on to Robert Lui in the lead-up.
But the Cowboys can right all those wrongs now.
And representative prop and co-captain Matt Scott, who has been with the Cowboys since 2004 and was 18th man in their last grand final, knows what a premiership would mean to the North Queensland Community.
“I experienced it in 2005 so I know what a grand final does to the town,” he said.
“During the finals series, there was a great vibe around the place so to see all the people come out and support us and everyone around town in Cowboys colours it gives us a real buzz and makes us proud to be supporting the whole region.
“We have spoken about winning it for all the right reasons.
“One is to repay the region and the fans, but also there is also a fair bit to play for personally and for the team.”