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Johnathan Thurston will finish his 16-year NRL career this season, and for all the records he has accomplished, he could go out with an unwanted one.
On October 1, 2017, the Cowboys were defeated 34-6 by the Storm in the grand final.
Fast forward to June 9, 2018, and North Queensland were defeated 20-14 by the 16th-placed Eels. It was their tenth loss in 14 matches this season, two fewer than they lost in 28 matches in 2017.
In NRL history, the grand final runners-up have finished in the top eight the following season 13 times. Only six times have the second-place team missed the finals the next season.
After losing the 2011 grand final, the New Zealand Warriors finished 14th in 2012. This is the lowest a losing grand finalist team has finished the following season, but North Queensland are in danger of breaking that unwanted record.
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Paul Green’s men are two points off bottom spot and after losing to the Bulldogs and the Eels this season (the two teams below them), there is a chance they could finish with the wooden spoon 12 months after they lost the last game of the season.
They still have ten matches remaining, so could mathematically return to ANZ Stadium on the last day of October. They lost five of their last six heading into the finals last season, without Matt Scott and Thurston.
However, they still have to play the Warriors, Dragons, Rabbitohs, and the Sharks – all teams in the top six at the time of writing.
The losers of the grand final have never finished below 14th, let alone finished with the wooden spoon.
This is not a record Thurston deserves to round out his celebrated career.