North Queensland star Johnathan Thurston has taken out the players’ player medal for the third straight year – and an unprecedented fourth time overall – at the Rugby League Players’ Association (RLPA) awards night.
However, the man of the night was a no-show on Tuesday evening at Doltone House in Sydney as he prepared for Saturday night’s semi-final against Cronulla in Townsville.
Thurston, who accepted the gong via video, claimed the honour was higher than the prestigious Dally M medal awarded to the best player of the year.
“In my eyes, this is the highest accolade a player can get, to be voted by your peers as the best in your game,” he said.
His comments come just a week after threatening to boycott this year’s gala Dally M awards, hosted by News Corp Australia in conjunction with the governing body, due to the players’ union’s ongoing collective bargaining agreement (CBA) negotiations with the NRL.
The CBA talks began in March.
Thurston took the opportunity to reinforce his position on fighting for players’ welfare.
“I think it’s crucial and very important that we stand united as one on this issue,” he said.
Thurston, who took out the RLPA honour in 2005, 2013 and 2014, edged out an impressive list of stars, including Brisbane’s Ben Hunt, South Sydney’s Greg Inglis, Wests Tiger James Tedesco and the Sydney Roosters’ Roger Tuivasa-Sheck.
But the 32-year-old’s outstanding efforts with the Cowboys ensured he was voted as the game’s No.1 by his peers this season.
“I am truly humbled and blown away to receive the RLPA Players’ Player Medal for a record fourth time,” he said.
“Our game is littered with stars; we’ve got future immortals playing – Smithy (Cameron Smith), GI (Greg Inglis) – we’ve got future Origin stars in Ben Hunt and James Tedesco, who have had outstanding seasons, (and) probably one of the best Kiwi fullbacks by the time he finishes his career in Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, who’s had an outstanding season,” he said.
Melbourne rookie Cameron Munster was awarded RLPA rookie of the year, while Brisbane’s Corey Parker won Australia’s representative player of the year.