Possibly the most curious case in the NRL over the most recent few seasons has been the under achievement of a stacked North Queensland side.
Retiring North Queensland great Johnathan Thurston has signed off on his 16-year NRL career in fitting fashion, piloting his side to a comeback 30-26 victory on the Gold Coast.
The Titans led 18-6 at the break but were dominated in the second half to ensure a winning farewell for the champion No.7.
Thurston terrorised the Titans with his short kicking game in the second half and it was fitting, after doing it so many times before, that he landed the fatal blow in his final appearance.
Trailing by two, the No.7 chipped and found Gavin Cooper with nine minutes to play, the backrower scoring for an unprecedented ninth straight game as the Cowboys shot ahead 24-20.
Gideon Gela-Mosby then sealed the contest with a 60m intercept effort in front of a sell-out crowd at Robina despite Brenko Lee’s 80th-minute try.
“I don’t think it’s hit me just yet,” Thurston said.
“The support has been overwhelming and humbling at the same time.”
It was vintage stuff from Thurston in his 323rd NRL game but he also brought something extra in defence to drag his side back into the contest.
A corking tackle up-ended Titans big man Ryan James and led to the side’s first try, while another jarring hit on Ashley Taylor kept the hosts under the pump in the second half.
“At least I’ll be in his highlights reel forever,” James said of the tackle.
“He played a great game, he’s just a competitor.
“Everything he touches turns to gold, everything he does works out for him.”
The Cowboys trailed 18-6 at the break but a Ben Hampton double brought them within two points with 20 minutes to play as the Titans lost their grip on the game.
Thurston’s teammates cheekily ran out in replicas of his trademark headgear as he was greeted by his parents, wife Sam, three children and long-time Queensland teammate Cameron Smith.
“They’ve probably been the most influential (people) throughout my life and that’s why I wanted them there,” Thurston said.
“I’m very grateful … and it’s something I’ll never forget.”
The pulsing crowd of 26,681 was urging the visitors on but there was no repeat of last Friday’s lightning start in Thurston’s Townsville farewell.
Gold Coast controlled the early stages, with fullback AJ Brimson bursting out of the blocks to find a clear path through for the game’s first try.
It scuppered a planned seventh-minute tribute for Thurston, with fans’ applause muddled by the up-and-coming Titan’s exploits.
Kane Elgey, in his last game for the Titans before joining Manly next season, then added a try of his own by running alongside and planting his own grubber.