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Passionate Cowboys member Kate Cornish embarks on a journey to learn what drives the G.O.A.T. 

Before the final 2017 State of Origin game, the Maroons camp presented Johnathan Thurston with a framed picture, capturing with images his journey, passion and the spirit of what being a Queenslander meant to JT. 

It had a few simple, yet poignant words engraved on the frame: Milestones, Memories & Mateship. Three simple words that sum up JT's story perfectly.

We saw as fans what being a Queenslander meant when JT competed, battered and broken, in the second game of that series. Refusing to give up, his competitive spirit literally willed the conversion over as he sent the series into a decider.

He couldn't lift his shoulder and was in agony, yet JT had once again woven his magic and left his mark on the game, changing the course of the series.

In the elation of that moment, when his skill and courage had been tested to their absolute limit, we did not realise that would be his last crowning glory in Origin.

I got my tickets for 'An Evening with JT' many months ago and I had been (impatiently) counting down the days. I had bought the book and started reading it, hanging off every word, every memory recalled by JT.

As fans we tend to make up our own account of the wins, the losses, the big moments for our team and for the most part we can only assume how our players felt in certain flashes of their career.

Reading JT's reflections on the final moments of the 2015 Grand Final against the Broncos was incredibly enlightening but I felt like he was talking about a different game than the one I was in the crowd for.

His own toughest critic, and so incredibly dissatisfied with his performance that night, even after slotting the field goal that would give the North Queensland Cowboys their maiden premiership, 20 years in the making, JT did not believe that he was worthy of the Clive Churchill Medal, such was this man's quest for perfection on the field.

I will respectfully disagree with JT on that point.

From where I sat in the stands that night, there was no player more deserving, because in that scenario there was no other player who, ball in hand with 20 seconds to go, down four points, could put as much pressure on a defensive line than JT commanded in that very moment.

The Broncos, who had been a defensive fortress all night, were scrambling because JT had the ball, and because you were never quite sure what he was going to do, they panicked, they rushed out of their line and their structure was demolished.

Shot to pieces in a split second by a halfback who simply refused to die with the ball.

The rest is history and in my humble opinion, that moment right there is exactly why JT deserved the Clive Churchill Medal that night.

A book signing was organised in Sydney on the morning of his show and I was not going to miss the chance to meet the man in person.

I left my house early to make sure I was one of the first people in line. JT's signing wasn't scheduled until midday and I was there at 8.50am.

To my pleasant surprise there were two people in front of me – one was a proud Parramatta supporter.

When my dad asked him why he was first in line for a JT book signing he said: "The first time I ever saw JT give his headgear away, I knew he was a good bloke, so I started to pay attention to him and watch his games."

I got talking to a young girl from Bathurst and we spent a few hours chatting all things Cowboys.

This young lady had driven from Bathurst with her mum especially for the book signing. She knew all the stats on Cowboys' player performance and was excited about the new signings of 2019.

She was only young, but the perfect Cowboys fan, full of positivity and passion.

I am not ashamed to say she taught me a thing or two that morning.

Before long the line had started to grow, so much so that they had to rearrange the set up because the number of people arriving in Cowboy jerseys were outnumbering their expectations.

By the time JT arrived there were literally hundreds of people to welcome him. It was quite amazing to see, deep in NSW territory, just how far this great man's reach stretches.

He has fans all over this country and once again, a proud contingent of Cowboys fans were there to show their unwavering support.

I was third in line to meet JT and have my book signed, and it was a bucket list moment – brief but wonderful.

JT was so polite and happy to have a quick chat.

I thanked him for signing my book and told him I would be at the show later that night, he said he hoped I would enjoy it. I said I absolutely would – and I was right.

'An Evening with JT' was held at The Star in Sydney and the venue was perfect, large enough for a great turn out, however still intimate enough if you didn't have seats down the front.

I was five rows back, front and centre when he walked on to the stage and took a seat.

Just like when I flipped open the first page of his autobiography, when the stories began on stage, I was hooked. I am fascinated by people like JT. Individuals who are incredibly ordinary and then unbelievably un-ordinary all at the same time. The ones who genuinely have no idea how good they are, or the effect they have on people.

At heart, he is still the larrakin, skinny kid from Brisbane, who would knock the footy around in his backyard and who played on the weekend for Souths Sunnybank.

The kid whose first memory of rugby league was at 5 years old when he was ball boy for his dad's team, a job worth $5 and a handful of red frogs. Always happiest with a football in his hand.

JT spoke candidly about how his success did not come without tremendous struggle, setbacks and a lot of hard work.

Listening to him talk about them (and there were plenty), you could still hear, even all these years later and even with all the success that has come his way, the way the story rolls off his tongue, that it was in those moments that his determination was forged, his character was built and he found the motivation to prove all the doubters wrong. 

There were many moments during the night that offered a great insight into JT as a player and as a person.

He said what he would miss the most was the friendships that are forged through battle, stepping out on the field together and taking the boots off in the locker room.

It was easy to hear the tone of voice change when JT spoke about passions he has found off the field. It is these achievements that he is most proud of, and he has every right to be.

No matter the on-field success or the off-field adventures JT will undertake, there is no doubt that his greatest achievement will always be his family.

Listening to JT, I got the feeling that his life (to date) has two distinct chapters that define him – Before Sam and After Sam.

'An Evening with JT' was everything I hoped it would be and more.

It was an outstanding insight to the player and the man that Cowboys fans have come to know and love, and we have been right to love him, he has become a good man, one that fans and the club can be proud of.

It is great story and the best part is, it isn't over yet, there are still plenty of chapters to write.

Acknowledgement of Country

North Queensland Cowboys respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.