A trip that changed Johnathan Thurston's life forever
CONNECTING with the Gunggari people of Mitchell was a trip that changed Johnathan Thurston's life forever.
The rugby league legend, future immortal and premiership-winning great was in southwest Queensland this week and reflected how a visit to his family's home town in 2010 had a "calming influence” on him.
Thurston said it was after the 2010 All Stars Match, the first time the event was held between representative teams of indigenous Australians versus the best in National Rugby League, that he knew it was time to connect with his people.
"I always knew my family was from Mitchell but I've never been out there before, so I reached out to my mum and told her it was time for me to learn my culture,” Thurston said.
"So my grandfather, three of my uncles and a dozen of my cousins got a bus to take us out to Mitchell. We spent a weekend out there meeting my family and getting an update on our family history.
"We stayed where mum and my uncles grew up in the Maranoa and it was a really calming influence.
"I said to mum, 'I feel like I've been here before' but I knew I never had, and mum said, 'I took you out here when you were a baby' and that was really life changing.”
The former North Queensland Cowboys, Queensland Maroons, Indigenous All Stars and Australian Kangaroos star spent the past week connecting with drought- affected communities, building resilience and putting smiles on their faces in one of the toughest droughts for western Queenslanders.
Thurston said everyone needed to help each other through this difficult time.
"Tough times don't last, tough people do,” he said.
Thurston said playing bush footy was what toughened him up as a youngster.
"I was playing local A-grade in Toowoomba when I was in high school - playing against teams like Goondiwindi, Pittsworth, the Wattles, Valleys - and all these blokes had 10 years' experience of A-grade under their belt and here I was just a teenager against grown men,” Thurston said.
"It taught me a lot playing out here and it certainly toughened me out.”When a contract for the Mitchell Magpies was proposed, Thurston let out his infectious laugh and assured the Maggies would have another young Gunggari boy ready to achieve greatness.
"I think the Mitchell Magpies can do better than me with their local talent. Unfortunately my days of putting the boots on are well and truly done,” he said.