EVERYONE knows the Johnathan Thurston premiership ring story.
Well, they should.
In what has now gone down in NRL legend, then-Bulldogs bench player Thurston handed his 2004 grand final trinket to injured captain Steve Price.
Thurston admitted: ‘‘it didn’t feel right’’ accepting it on the winner’s podium.
Adding to the tug-at-the-heartstrings factor, hardened Bulldogs coach Steve Folkes offered his ring to Thurston in the dressing room upon hearing of his young playmaker’s noble gesture.
Ten years later, Thurston, 31, hopes to again enter sporting folklore.
He is primed to lead the North Queensland Cowboys to their first premiership.
And it seems, seal his Immortal status.
Yet not so long ago Thurston almost became a cautionary tale.
The notion of Thurston leading a title-winning North Queensland side was almost as amusing as the dreadlocks the fresh-faced playmaker sported when he first moved to Townsville in 2005.
Former whipping boys the Cowboys had only made the finals once – in 2004 – nine long years after their inception.
And while Thurston took confident strides on the field, relishing a guaranteed starting berth at North Queensland, off the field there were some stumbles.
In 2008, he was charged with public drunkenness after being arrested outside his Townsville apartment semi-naked.
Two years later the Cowboys issued a club apology after their captain was arrested on a public nuisance charge in Brisbane.
It wasn’t a good look – and Thurston knew it.
A quick glance around Townsville these days shows just how far Thurston has come since.
He is on billboards.
He is stopped on the street by strangers.
And that’s just in the pre-season.
Ahead of North Queensland’s NRL semi-final with Sydney Roosters tonight, all eyes are again on Thurston.
Quite simply, he is their hero.
Retired Test winger Brent Tate – who arrived at the Cowboys in 2011 – summed it up best.
‘‘He is their hope up there,’’ Tate said.
‘‘Everywhere he goes he brings joy to people.
‘‘He is respected and he respects the community.
‘‘I think he has really learned that over the last few years and grown into a real mature leader.
‘‘He’s a wonderful man and he means a lot to the people up there and I know they mean a lot to him.’’
It already has the makings of a feel good story but Thurston will be looking to add another chapter with a long-awaited premiership ring.
Yet ex-Test international Matt Johns believes Thurston will achieve so much more if North Queensland triumph on grand final day.
‘‘If he can guide this Cowboys team to the title, he will be assured of Immortal status,’’ he wrote in his News Corp column.
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.