If Wayne Bennett had trusted his gut, retiring North Queensland great Johnathan Thurston may never have made it further north than Brisbane.
That’s what the Broncos coach admitted on Friday, the morning of Thurston’s Townsville NRL farewell against Parramatta.
Describing it as a “mistake”, Bennett revealed he had scouted a young Thurston and liked what he saw, only to follow the advice of his peers and not chase the champion playmaker’s signature.
“I went and saw him play once and thought he was pretty good, but everyone else around me told me he wasn’t the halfback we needed so I kind of listened to them,” Bennett said.
“It would’ve made a difference here, but it didn’t happen and probably our fault more than anyone else’s.
“At the time … we obviously made a mistake.”
Bennett said the chicken had flown the coop by the time he was back coaching at the Broncos, with Thurston an established figure at the Cowboys and not a realistic recruitment option.
He said he would’ve loved to coach Thurston at club level, adding that the Cowboys’ battle to avoid the wooden spoon had come as a surprise.
“Weird to think he’s playing up there tonight, down the bottom of the competition … that’s the weirdest thing that’s happened this season,” he said.
“He still plays his heart out every week, it just hasn’t been their year.”