He hasn’t played in an NRL grand final in 10 years, so North Queensland star Johnathan Thurston might need some advice when it comes to delivering in the big games: Kick better.
Those are the scathing words from Kirwan State Primary School captain Harley Taylor, whose team fell to Banksia Beach in the state final at Suncorp Stadium on Sunday.
Taylor has a solid working relationship with the Cowboys captain, who is a frequent visitor to the school as a Cowboys ambassador and took time out of this year’s finals series to give Taylor and his teammates a rev-up ahead of their trip to Brisbane last week.
“He told us to keep our heads cool and don’t get in the niggle,” Taylor said.
And while the stirring words didn’t quite pay off, the 12-year-old now wants to return the favour, given he now has more grand final experience over the past decade than his more decorated counterpart.
“He hasn’t been kicking very well, so he needs to kick better,” Taylor observed.
“But he’s still been very good. And still one of the people that I look up to.”
Just one day before Kirwan State returned to Townsville, the Cowboys were given a mammoth reception upon their homecoming from their preliminary final win in Melbourne.
An estimated 300 people turned up to salute Thurston and his teammates, who on Monday began preparations for the all-Queensland decider against Brisbane.
All eyes will be on the current Queensland and Australian five-eighth, who has almost single-handedly put North Queensland on the rugby league map since his arrival from Canterbury following their 2004 premiership victory over the Sydney Roosters.
The following year he led the Cowboys to their first ever grand final, going down 30-16 to the Wests Tigers.
Since then, Thurston, who is nursing calf and groin complaints, has been involved in the Maroons’ record eight straight State of Origin series wins and a World Cup triumph.
He recently won a record fourth RLPA Players’ Player award, and is also expected to pocket a fourth Dally M medal on Monday night, surpassing Andrew Johns’ three.
But he has yet to deliver Townsville the trophy it so craves.
“He just needs to do what he told me and keep his head cool,” Taylor said.