The NRL trophy now resides more than 2000 kilometres away but local league officials believe the benefits of North Queensland’s thrilling grand final win over Brisbane can’t be underestimated.
“It was an unbelievable advertisement for the game,” Country Rugby League manager, Dave Skinner, said.
Johnathan Thurston’s heroics in the dramatic decider could inspire a generation according to Adam Perry, the NRL development manager for south-west NSW.
“It was pretty amazing and for our sport it’s a great showcase,” Perry said.
“To have someone like JT, who isn’t the biggest, most dominant guy, it shows there’s space for everyone in our sport no matter what shape you are.”
Perry and Thurston are former premiership teammates who shared in the Bulldogs’ 2004 NRL victory.
“He’s obviously grown into a superstar after that but I think something that’s stood out recently is his sportsmanship – his interaction with the crowd, and the kids with the kicking tees.”
Perry said Thurston is the ideal role-model, pointing out the match-winner was quick to seek out heartbroken Bronco Ben Hunt.
“He’s a good guy and he deserves all those rewards – he’s worked really hard for it all and it’s good to show that nice guys can get what they deserve,” Perry said.
Perry is confident Hunt can bounce back from his devastating drop, and said most fans will remember an entertaining game played in the right spirit.
“The game had something for everyone – the open try-scoring probably appeals to new people more than the traditionalists but the way the Broncos defended, it was fairly aggressive and that suits people who watched the game 20 years ago.”
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