Johnathan Thurston is finally within reach of delivering North Queensland their first premiership, and the Cowboys players who have helped the NRL superstar get there, say they are doing it for him.
After several seasons of heartbreaking finals failures, the Cowboys are within 80 minutes of their inaugural title after 20 years of trying.
Cameron Smith says he can’t believe the pressure Thurston is asked to play under, something his Cowboys teammates are witness to week-in-week-out.
But it’s those teammates, such as representative stars James Tamou, Matt Scott and Michael Morgan that have helped make it a reality. And have done so because of their admiration for Thurston.
“We have seen it all year, Jono has been fantastic, he is just getting better, I am just happy for him, he is the one person who has really deserved it,” Tamou told AAP.
“We see how hard he works, all the things he does.
“All the players around him, we know we have to do our job for him to do his job and that has been a real focus for us this year, to give him time to pass or kick it or do what he wants to do.
“I’m not sure what goes through his head (in regard to the pressure he is under), but he is out there barking orders and he just gets the job done.”
The emergence of hooker Jake Granville has been another key factor in the Cowboys’ surge to this Sunday’s grand final against Brisbane at ANZ Stadium.
After playing just 10 games in two seasons at the Broncos, Granville has played every game for the Cowboys in 2015.
A rapid improvement the 23-year-old puts down largely to the influence of Thurston.
“JT has just taught me how to be composed more than anything, not to be frazzled if things are going wrong,” Granville said.
“It’s great to play alongside him every week.”
But Tamou says the Cowboys are well aware their job isn’t done yet.
“It is exciting but we can’t get too far ahead of ourselves, we still have one game to go, having said that it will be a heck of a week,” Tamou said.
“Brisbane were relentless last week, they didn’t let anything past them and we will have to match that.”
It is a mantra Broncos star Corey Parker has been keen to repeat to his teammates.
“It’s not about who we are playing, it’s about us, we are in a grand final, we have given ourselves an opportunity at another premiership, we have come a hell of a long way as a side this year, it’s been a great journey, a real rollercoaster ride, but from our point of view it is not finished yet,” he said.
It is the Broncos first grand final in 10 years. For a club accustomed to success it has been a long wait said 2006 NRL title winner Sam Thaiday.
“It’s been a long time coming, it just shows how hard it is to get into a grand final,” Thaiday said.
“We have had teams here in the past to make and win grand finals we haven’t executed at the right time of year, but we have done that this year.
“We have gone through the finals the easy way which gives a few of us older fellas a chance to get over niggles.
“Now we have another chance to win another premiership.”