Achieving on & off the sporting field

North Queensland Cowboys

Deadly Vibe Issue 98 April 2005

Taking Flight

The Cowboys look set to ride “˜em high all the way to the finals ” no bull.

Late in 2004, the North Queensland Cowboys became everyone’s second favourite team, as they battle d t heir way in true underdog fashion all the way into the NRL semi-finals, falling just short of the club’s first ever Grand Final.

Now in 2005, there is even more reason to get behin d t he pride of North Queensland as the Cowboys line up for the new season, boasting no fewer than eight Indigenous players ” by far the most of any team in the NRL.

For many years, rugby league clubs have utilise d t o great advantage the skills of Aboriginal strike players, men who were able to produce that extra bit of magic. Think Larry Corowa in the 1980s, Cliff Lyons, Ewan McGrady and Steve Renouf in the 1990s, and present-day players like Willie Tonga, Amos Roberts and Preston Campbell.

But until now, no other club has amassed such an impressive array of talented Indigenous attacking power into one team like the Cowboys have.

Joining established players Matt Bo wen, Matt Sing, Ty Williams, Brenton Bo wen and Rod Jensen are three new Aboriginal recruits in the form of talented half Jonathan Thurston, powerful prop Carl Webb and hard-working back rower Justin Smith.

“I never actually realised we ha d t hat many Aboriginal players,” admits Jonathan Thurston, who spoke to Deadly Vibe fresh from the Cowboys roun d t hree triumph over the Warriors in Auckland.

“But obviously it’s really great for the club and myself. It’s always good playing alongside other Aboriginal players simply because they are all so talented and play such an exciting style of football.”

During three impressive seasons at the Bulldogs, including last year’s Grand Final win, Jonathan was held back only by injury, as well as having some high profile players such as Braith Anasta and Brent Sherwin in front of him. Now he’s with the Cowboys, it looks like Jonathan has been grante d t he perfect opportunity to prove just how talented he is.

When he became a free agent last season, several clubs were vying to add him to their rosters, well aware of his potential to develop into a world-class player. But being born in Mackay, it seemed only natural that Jonathan would want to return closer to his family roots in North Queensland. So far the move has paid dividends, with Jonathan starting the season in scintillating form.

“I already knew a lot of the boys up here from being in different camps together an d t hings like that, and I’m just really enjoying my football at the moment,” he says.

“Graham (Murray, Cowboys’ coach) has given me more freedom to play my type of game than I have ever had before.”

While his silky ball skills and electrifying pace around the rucks made him the Cowboys’ key signing, it’s Jonathan’s defensive game that he has focused on the most during the pre-season. It certainly seems that the hard work is already paying off. This was evident in roun d t wo, when the naturally light-weight Jonathan picked up and dumped Bulldogs’ powerful winger Matt Utai in a spectacular tackle that knocke d t he ball loose behin d t he in-goal area. That tackle symbolised what these new Cowboys are all about ” heart, passion and confidence.

The same could also be said for Jonathan himself.

“I still haven’t played a full season of rugby league,” he says. “So that’s my goal for this year ” to play the whole season for the Cowboys in first grade.”

Eager to prove that last season’s fairy-tale finish was much more than just a flash in the pan, the Cowboys have got off to a great start. The single most important thing is the fact that the players now believe in their ability to win, and with self-belief anything is possible.

The football gods are certainly smiling on Jonathan at the moment. He has already taste d t he sweet success that is grand final glory and it has only left him hungry for more. As the proverbial saying goes, the sky’s the limit, and it would seem Jonathan Thurston has just taken flight.

(story 1/4/2005 end)

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