Johnathan Thurston's final training session on the turf of 1300Smiles stadium today, leading up to their last NRL game of the year against the Gold Coast Titans on Saturday night and the last game of his career with the Cowboys.
Johnathan Thurston's final training session on the turf of 1300Smiles stadium today, leading up to their last NRL game of the year against the Gold Coast Titans on Saturday night and the last game of his career with the Cowboys.

JT’s lead-by-example approach a tough void to fill: Cooper

COWBOYS veteran Gavin Cooper says Johnathan Thurston's lead-by-example approach will be the biggest thing the club will miss as it turns to youngsters to help drive a new era.

Cooper, who debuted for the Cowboys a year after Thurston in 2006, has had a front-row seat to the champion halfback's transformation from larrikin to legend.

Thurston will play his final career game against Gold Coast Titans at Robina on Saturday, and will bow out as one of the greatest to play the game.

But Cooper says it's the example he provides to the club's youth looking to find their way that will be as hard to replace as his on-field deeds.

"One of the big things the young kids will miss is him to look up to. He's proven every fairy tale right, up until this year," Cooper said.

"Everyone keeps talking about this skinny little kid from Toowoomba that no one gave a shot to, but he stuck in there and his determination and competitiveness got him to where he is.

"A skinny kid with big wings, to make one NRL game and to do what he's done for the Cowboys, Queensland and Australia, to win two comps, it's pretty remarkable.

"There'll be a lot said about his career for a long time, and being able to play a small part in that is what I'll tell the grandkids."

The Cowboys will also farewell other stalwarts against the Titans, with 2015 premiership hero Kane Linnett and Shaun Fensom to also represent the club for the last time.

Antonio Winterstein (retirement) and Lachlan Coote will watch from the stands before they say also say goodbye.

"There's a lot of guys who will pull on the Cowboys colours for the final time," Cooper said.

"It's going to be very emotional, it's been all about Johnno but the guys who are role models that have been here a long time, it will be a sad day for them as well."

Thurston's influence on the rugby league community is proven by the sellout crowd expected at Robina. It means his last two career games will be sellouts, despite the Cowboys' poor season.

"It's only fitting, they've only sold the sides of their stadium all year," Cooper said.

"To see the ends fill up will be pretty good, another game in Queensland is a fitting end as well.

"I know he would get a big crowd in Sydney, but to see a full stadium is going to be something special."

Cooper will be vying for his own piece of history when he looks to become the first forward in first grade history to score a try in nine straight games, after equalling the record set by immortal Frank Burge in 1918 against the Eels.

"There's a few lucky ones in there, but a couple of tough ones I had to run 50 metres for as well," Cooper said.

"If I'm at dummy half and half a metre from the try line this weekend, I don't know what I'm going to do."

Plenty of those four-pointers have been laid on a platter by Thurston, and the pair have forged one of the most potent half-back back-rower combinations in the modern game.

"I will (miss that), but it will be stranger on the training side of things," Cooper said.

"T (Te Maire Martin) has a bit of a silly laugh, so he can pick up the slack."



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