Thurston soaking in last NRL pre-season

Johnathan Thurston is soaking it all in – the gruelling summer fitness camps, the away trips, the camaraderie of the dressing room.

The realisation has dawned on the iconic North Queensland halfback that everything he does in preparation for his final NRL season, he’ll be doing it for the last time.

The 34-year-old will retire from rugby league at the end of 2018, having already signed off as a representative star for Australia and Queensland.

“I know it’s going to be my final year so it’s about enjoying it,” Thurston said on Tuesday.

“Enjoying being around the playing group, enjoying the couple of nights you’re away with the boys, the pre-season camps – all that type of stuff, because it’s my last one.

“(I’m) not more motivated because it’s my last, it’s just about enjoying what lies ahead.”

Thurston’s busted right shoulder has held up well through the first few days of Cowboys pre-season training, having returned to the paddock last Wednesday.

His focus at the moment is rebuilding strength before he begins contact work after Christmas.

“I haven’t done a pre-season in a while,” he said.

Having not played since his heroic performance in State of Origin II earlier this year, Thurston said the extra time off has helped the rest of his body heal.

“Everyone’s carrying niggles throughout the year,” he said.

“Obviously when you’re at the back end of your career, you’re managing those niggles a lot more.

“Having the shoulder surgery has given my knees and ankles a bit of a break but I’ve still had to keep training and keep the skinfolds to a minimum.”

The big question – can Thurston end one of the NRL’s most storied careers with one more Cowboys premiership?

“That’s the plan, but I’m not naive to think that all dreams come true,” he said.

“There’s a lot of hard work that lies ahead with the playing group, there’s a few fresh faces but most of the talent’s still there from the last couple of years.

“It’s about collectively buying into the values that we hold as a group and living those off and on the training paddock.

“It’s one of the strongest squads the club has assembled. I’m glad I’m not part of the coaching staff because we’ve obviously got a big headache.”

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