Michael Burgess is the football and rugby league writer for the Herald on Sunday.

League: Millions watched grand final but Johnathan Thurston wasn't one of them

Johnathan Thurston couldn't watch Sunday's NRL grand final after his side crashed out of the competition the week before. Photo / Getty
Johnathan Thurston couldn't watch Sunday's NRL grand final after his side crashed out of the competition the week before. Photo / Getty

Johnathan Thurston couldn't watch last Sunday's NRL grand final because it "hurt too much".

The Kangaroos halfback had invited his family over to watch the game, but he ended up sitting in his backyard alone, nursing a beer and dwelling on the Cowboy's deflating exit from the finals.

Thurston, who is in Auckland to promote his appearance in next year's Auckland NRL Nines, revealed that Sunday's epic clash between the Sharks and the Storm passed him by.

"I didn't watch the game to tell you the truth," Thurston told Radio Sport. "I couldn't bring myself to do it. It hit me like a ton of bricks actually just before kick-off. It hurt too much."

The Cowboys were hoping to become the first team in more than two decades to win back to back NRL titles, and they looked on course after a dramatic 26-20 extra time win over the Broncos in the semi-final. But they faltered badly against the Sharks the following week, making a ton of errors in the first half to trail 14-0 at halftime before eventually losing 32-20.

Listen: Johnathan Thurston on the Crowd Goes Wild

"We wanted to be there," said Thurston. "We were really disappointed with way our season ended at the Cowboys, we played our worse game in the preliminary final. Full credit to Cronulla they played exceptional when they played us and the momentum that they had they took into the grand final."

It meant that on Sunday, as millions tuned in across Australia and New Zealand to follow the Shark's quest for history, Thurston sat alone in his Townsville backyard.

"I sat out [there], cracked open a beer and chilled out, listening to some music while [the game] was going on," said Thurston. "I had the family over to watch and they kept coming out and giving me updates. I [guess] it's the competitive streak coming out in me.

"In the finals there is so little room for error and in our first five or six sets against the Sharkies we didn't get to a kick and they pumped us from there. We were on the back foot for the whole of the first half."

Thurston was yesterday named in a fresh looking Kangaroos squad with seven new faces and no room for Paul Gallen and Corey Parker.

"I guess Mal [Meninga] has one eye on the World Cup next year," said Thurston. "I'm thinking that why they were excluded. But you know what those two bring to the team and it has been a pleasure to play alongside them.

Thurston is also wary of the challenge presented by the Kiwis, who have won three of the last four matches between the two teams.

"They have world class players," said Thurston. "[A lot of us] are coming to the back ends of our careers and they are just starting out. They'll have a lot of success over the coming years and hopefully that is not while I am there."

- NZ Herald

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