Seven minutes of JT magic that changed history

Seven minutes of JT magic that changed history

 It is safe to say there would have been no 2015 premiership for the North Queensland Cowboys without seven minutes of Johnathan Thurston magic at the end of the home round four clash with the Melbourne Storm.

On March 30, 2015 there was not a man alive who'd played in a side that had lost their opening four games of the season and gone on to win a premiership.

The Newtown Jets of 1933 had done it, the only ones.

All those Blue Bags had departed this mortal coil when Johnathan Thurston stepped up to reclaim history with his skill, and more importantly, as North Queensland Cowboys stalwart Peter Parr suggests, with the power of his will.

Oblivion. Trailing 17-10, that is what the Cowboys were facing in the 78th minute in Townsville on a Monday night.

Cowboys superstar Johnathan Thurston.
Cowboys superstar Johnathan Thurston. ©Colin Whelan/NRL Photos

They'd lost their opening three fixtures and, against the masters of closing out a game, surely were about to lose a fourth.

What happened in the next seven minutes encapsulated the career of Thurston… the skill, will power, courage and sheer genius future Immortals possess.

In the 78th minute Thurston helps set up a try for Matthew Wright near the right touch line. Back he goes, steadies his headgear and curls a conversion through the sticks.

Then, with 40 seconds remaining and with Storm defenders bearing down on Thurston… over goes the field goal. He does a jig, a JT dance that says "come on", rather than "the job's done".

You know what happens in the 85th minute. Déjà vu. Only this time the game is over. Cowboys win 18-17. Thurston and his teammates are jubilant.

Six months almost to the day later, Thurston lands another golden point field goal against the Broncos and the premiership is headed north.

There would have been no 2015 title without those seven minutes.

NRL.com has spoken at length to Cowboys insiders about that night in Townsville and what it meant.

With two minutes left Peter Parr, the club's general manager of football and a rock for the players in their darkest moments, was sombre.

"I was sitting there somehow trying to stay positive, not so much about the result, but after the game because I knew there would be a lot of doom and gloom," Parr says, ahead of the Thurston and Cameron Smith testimonial match at Suncorp Stadium on Friday night.

Parr reckons what happened from the 78th minute onward, if anything could, summed up the career of a genius.

"If you want to capture Johnathan's career in a snapshot then that seven minutes would do it because there was the skill in setting up the try, the skill in kicking the goal from touch, the skill in kicking the field goals," Parr says.

"But he also knew what was on the line if we lost and it was his sheer determination, and nothing else but his determination, that won it for us.

"It was like it was beyond question that we could lose."

Those seven minutes caused Parr to reflect on how a phone call he received back in 2004 had proven true.

"When we signed Johnathan, Canterbury's recruiter Mark Hughes rang me and said 'you've signed him, well done, but you don't know what you are getting. This bloke is as good a competitor as I've ever seen'," Parr recalls.

"That is one thing we didn't know about him at that stage. We knew he was very skilful and talented and could goal kick goals and field goals, but we didn't realise what a competitor he was.

"I always remember Mark saying that to me, and that night against Melbourne his sheer will won us that game. I don't think another player could have done it. He willed the team to win."

Cowboys legend Paul Bowman, the club's high performance manager, was on the sideline that night wondering if a season that had promised so much was about to head south.

"I remember it well because there was a lot of talk and a lot of expectation around us in the pre-season," Bowman reflects.

"So to be down 3-0 and staring down the barrel of our fourth loss against one of the best teams in Melbourne, with minutes to go, I was not feeling too good."

Cowboys superstar Johnathan Thurston.
Cowboys superstar Johnathan Thurston. ©Colin Whelan/NRL Photos

Bowman points out Thurston's initial field goal in regular time was a statement of ultimate belief.

"The drop goal to tie it up and take it to extra time was such a courageous play," he says.

"It wasn't like the siren had gone or it was the last throw of the dice.

"He got a quickish play-the-ball on the second tackle, so we had more opportunities to roll down the field further.

"It wasn't a gimme of a drop-goal either. It was almost 30 metres out, but he's backed himself and had the courage to do it. He's kicked it and the rest is history."

Bowman believes that night sparked a new fighting spirit in the Cowboys that would result in the premiership.

"Then we went on an 11-game winning streak in a season where we came back from the dead in a lot of games," Bowman says.

"That gave us confidence, and maybe the belief, in the grand final. We'd been in that position a fair few times that year but we had players like Johnno who could pull us out… but if he misses that drop goal against the Storm she's all over."

Cowboys superstar Johnathan Thurston.
Cowboys superstar Johnathan Thurston. ©Colin Whelan/NRL Photos

Coach Paul Green says simply that Thurston was "inspirational that night".

"He was determined not to lose and found a way to win," Green says.

"It got the monkey off our back, and we went on from there."

The man himself, on reflection, views that March evening as pivotal in the eventual premiership win, while typically deflecting attention from his own role.

"We were under a lot of pressure… the club, the coaching staff and the playing group," Thurston tells NRL.com.

"I always believed that we had a team that could do something special, and that night kick-started something special.

"I wouldn't have been able to do what I did without them all.

"Jason Taumalolo and Matty Scott had massive games that night, and were really big in the scheme of things

"I was just one of the guys who kicked some goals and stuff."

The stuff that dreams, and legends, are made of.