North Queensland Toyota Cowboys legend Johnathan Thurston has today been appointed as a Member of the Order of Australia as part of the Queen’s Birthday Honours list.

Thurston was recognised for significant service to rugby league and as a role model.

The 36-year-old retired from rugby league at the end of last season as one of the game’s all-time greats. His glittering 17-year career included 323 NRL games, 38 appearances for Australia, 37 for Queensland, a further six for the Indigenous All Stars and a record four Dally M Medals.

While his playing resume may be unrivalled, his work off the field, particularly in the Indigenous community, is equally impressive.

In December 2017, Thurston was awarded the Australian Human Rights Commission Medal for his work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. He was also named 2018 Queensland Australian of the Year and 2018 Australian of the Year nominee.

“This was very unexpected, but certainly a massive honour and one I’m extremely humbled by,” Thurston said.

“Rugby league has a huge impact on the community and over time I realised I could also have an impact personally as well. When you’re a kid you dream about playing for Queensland and Australia and it wasn’t until I achieved those dreams I realised the difference I could make on the community with my standing in the game.”

Cowboys CEO Jeff Reibel applauded the recognition of Thurston on the Queen’s Birthday Honours list.

“Johnathan has forged a legacy, both as a player and as a role model, that I believe is unmatched in rugby league,” Reibel said.

“We are thrilled he has been recognised for his contributions both on and off the field, as you can not tell the story of the man that is ‘JT’ without recounting his football career as well as his unwavering commitment to his people and the community.

“It is an absolute honour for the Cowboys to continue working with ‘JT’ post his football career, especially through his role as an ambassador of NRL Cowboys House, which is something he is extremely passionate about.”

Thurston will be inducted as a Member of the Order of Australia alongside close friend and long-time state and national teammate Cameron Smith.