Kent: What the Warriors said to JT
SMALL gestures make big impacts.
Johnathan Thurston walked off the field last month when Warriors five-eighth Blake Green pulled him aside.
"Can you hang back for a sec?" Green said. "We want to say a few words."
It was probably the last thing Thurston wanted. The Cowboys just lost 23-16 and Thurston was puzzled and at such times nothing feels better than a hot shower.
"I was taken a bit by surprise," he said on Tuesday.
Simon Mannering walked over and grabbed Thurston.
"Can you stay behind?" he said.
Thurston had no idea what they wanted and it was different from anything he had seen on a football field but, still, he hung around.
"No worries, brother," he said.
What he was about to walk into began in the pre-season. There the Warriors, tired of being the Warriors, sat and spoke about what they wanted to be.
They realised there comes a time in our lives when, if we are lucky, we grow up to be what we want to be but, if we are not quite so lucky, we sometimes discover it is not enough.
Sometimes, something more is necessary for inner contentment.
The Warriors wanted to be all that it stood for to be a footballer and not just something to enter into their job description.
For years they have been the game's great letdown. Talent took them only so far.
So over the pre-season they spoke about what they were and what wanted to represent, and how they might get to where they want to be.
"We talked about what type of people we wanted to be seen as by outsiders," Green said.
"How we wanted to be looked upon. We wanted to live by certain standards."
It was a conversation begun by coach Steve Kearney and one quickly grasped by his players.
The Warriors knew what that meant.
They have developed a reputation for lacking the iron to tough through the end of their season, of failing in those tough minutes when the game was on the line.
Last year they collapsed to lose their final eight games and miss the finals. The season before they won just two of the final eight.
Three times since their grand final season in 2011 the Warriors have failed to win even a single game from their final eight. And not once have they made the finals.
Part of that conversation earlier this year was about respect and, if they were going to respect themselves, they needed to respect those they played against and so they called Thurston, who will go down as one of the game's greats, into their huddle for an impromptu thank you.
They linked arms, the entire Warriors squad with the Cowboys skipper among them.
"It's a privilege to share the ground with you," Green said to Thurston.
"In our opinion you're one of the best players ever …"
A few more kind words were said and Thurston, looking into their eyes, saw something different in these Warriors.
"It goes to show the team and where they're heading," he said.
"It might be the last time we see you on the field," Green said.
"It might not be," said Thaiday, "we might see each other in a few weeks."
The Warriors called him in anyway.
"If we don't meet again," Green said, "all the best."
The Warriors might be at it again on Sunday when they come up against Ryan Hoffman, who some weeks back not only announced his coming retirement but is also a former Warriors player.
After the game Thurston shared the ride home with his wife Samantha and she was curious.
"What did the Warriors get you in the huddle for?" she said.
Thurston thought about it again. In a game where he has achieved all the honours this simple gesture has stayed with him.
"I was grateful," he said.