Johnathan Thurston hailed North Queensland’s maiden NRL premiership as the crowning achievement of his career after putting the finishing touch on one of the most complete CVs in rugby league history.
The Immortal-in-waiting added the elusive title and the Clive Churchill Medal to his resume after leading the Cowboys to an epic 17-16 golden-point grand final victory over Brisbane on Sunday at ANZ Stadium.
His extra-time field goal, having struck the upright with a match-winning conversion attempt after the siren had sounded, sent Cowboys fans into a frenzy.
It was the final frontier for Thurston, who secured his first NRL title coming off the bench for Canterbury as a 21-year-old in 2004.
A dual Golden Boot winner as world player of the year, Thurston last week claimed a record fourth Dally M Medal.
Throw in nine State of Origin series wins for Queensland and a Rugby League World Cup with Australia and Thurston has achieved everything the game has to offer.
“I’m speechless,” he told the Nine Network, almost in tears, minutes after the win.
“Wow, I can’t believe what I’ve just done – unbelievable. I just love this club.”
Jubilant Cowboys coach Paul Green hailed Thurston a hero.
“He’s unbelievable,” Green said.
“I don’t think there’s any other player that I’d want to take that goal. It wasn’t to be, but he iced the game when he got the chance.”
Thurston later said he ranked co-captaining the Cowboys with Matt Scott to the club’s breakthrough premiership above anything else he’d accomplished in his decorated career.
“It’s No.1,” he said.
“Because that’s what you do. You set out every year to do that and I can’t be prouder with the way the boys have gone about their business all year.
“Whoever’s come in and done a job, they’ve done a job for us and that was evident throughout the Origin period.
“We only lost one match during that period this year and, in the past, that’s probably been where we’ve been our weakest.”