THE MAN: NRL legend Johnathan Thurston with some of Proserpine State High School’s most dedicated students.
THE MAN: NRL legend Johnathan Thurston with some of Proserpine State High School’s most dedicated students. Rory Sheavils

STAR STRUCK

JUST days after being named the best player in the world, Johnathan Thurston visited Proserpine State High School to spread the gospel of rugby league.

The North Queensland Cowboys' skipper and future NRL immortal fronted students on Tuesday morning, answering questions and signing autographs for the star-struck crowd.

The 2015 Golden Boot winner said it was important to hit the road and visit the regional communities.

"Obviously we're called the North Queensland Cowboys so we cover a huge footprint," he said.

"We understand what the community means to the Cowboys.

"We understand a lot of our members travel afar to watch and support us.

"A great example was when we brought the trophy back (to Townsville).

"There were 15,000 in the stadium on a Monday," Thurston said.

"We're not only playing for ourselves but the North Queensland community.

"It's always good to get out to the high schools and talk to students.

"They're intrigued about the lifestyle and dedication it takes to become a professional footballer."

Thurston was littered with questions at the school's hall, including a personal inquiry into whether he "scrunches or folds" his toilet paper, before moving to Filby's Motors in the afternoon.

While he was in Cowboys' heartland, Thurston's team-mates were returning to the field for pre-season training, where they will begin their title defence.

North Queensland scraped past Brisbane in this year's NRL grand final, but Thurston knows winning back-to-back titles will be anything but a walk in the park, especially when his team goes from being the hunter to the hunted.

"No team has done it in a long time," he said.

"When you become premiers every team you play against lifts that extra 10 per cent.

"It's tough for teams to win back-to-back titles, once they've won a title that motivation and hunger isn't there to what it was the previous year.

"We've got the same squad so hopefully we can stay injury-free and give it a good shake."

Reminiscing on that epic grand final victory, a 17-16 win in golden point extra-time, Thurston said the final moments were surreal.

"It was a wave of emotions," he said.

"I missed the kick so I was pretty shattered.

"But the boys snapped me out of it and said we'd win in extra time.

"James Tamou got a quick play the ball and I was able to take my time and slot the field-goal... it was mayhem after that."


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