Johnathan Thurston’s fiancee Samantha Lynch has revealed the intense motivation driving the North Queensland captain ahead of Sunday’s NRL grand final against Brisbane.
Thurston broke down in tears after receiving a record fourth Dally M medal on Monday night, surpassing eighth Immortal Andrew Johns’ three.
The 32-year-old wasn’t in Sydney for the gala awards night, but he still struggled to string together words when crediting his family for his success at a function at Townsville’s Jupiters Casino.
Lynch believed the barely contained emotion was also linked to the great halfback’s heightened appreciation of his standing in the game and also his desire to deliver a maiden premiership for the Cowboys and the North Queensland region.
“Apart from the birth of our two children (Frankie and Charlie), this is the most emotional I’ve seen him,” Lynch said.
Sunday’s all-Queensland decider against Brisbane shapes as Thurston’s best opportunity to add to his sole premiership win as a fringe player with Canterbury 11 years ago and he is keenly aware of what it would mean.
Asked how badly he wanted to lift the trophy, Lynch said: “More than I can explain in words.
“He would give up this and his other three Dally Ms to win this grand final on Sunday.
“He would trade them all to bring a premiership back to North Queensland.
“I really think he deserves it and I really hope they win.”
The pair have been together for almost a decade, but Lynch said she had never seen her partner so focused to deliver the North Queensland region their first premiership.
In the past three years, the Cowboys have been knocked out of the finals in heartbreaking and sometimes cruel circumstances.
In 2012, it was Manly’s `Hand of Foran’ in a semi-final.
In 2013, it was Cronulla’s seven-tackle try in an elimination final.
And last year, Thurston was denied a match-winning try against the Roosters in the final minute of their semi-final by the video referee.
“The last couple of years though have been the most intense I’ve seen him in the eight or nine years we’ve been together,” Lynch said.
“He’s matured and the last couple of years I’ve seen him not only become the player he is, but off the field he realises the impact he has on the fans, on the game, and the legacy he’s going to leave.”
Thurston will be a certain starter on Sunday despite copping a cork to the calf to add to his persistent groin injury.
“The last couple of weeks have been bad. When he got back this time (from Melbourne) he could hardly sit down without being in agony,” Lynch said.
“I just told him `80 more minutes and your body can have a rest’.
“He knows as well as anyone that he’s getting to the end of his career. He just desperately wants a premiership.”