Johnathan Thurston spoke to all the players in small groups, sharing tips and hints from his long career
Beyond The Nest players practising two-on-one tackling drills on Sunday

October 21, 2020

Rugby league players of all ages experience the highest of highs during a season as well as the lowest of lows … much like life itself.

Young players from the South Burnett’s development program, “Beyond The Nest”, had the opportunity to hear tips about league – and life – from one of Queensland’s most famous players, Johnathan Thurston, on Sunday when he dropped in to Murgon Sportsground.

The youngsters broke up into four training areas to practise their skills while JT went from group to group to talk footy and about “life in general”.

Thurston told the youngsters it had been a tough year for a lot of people because of COVID.

“Obviously it has stopped a lot of sport which is a good outlet for a lot of teenage kids,” he said.

“No doubt it has been tough on you and as a community, as well.

“If you are struggling at all with your mental health don’t be ashamed to speak up or ask for advice.

“I had a psychologist all through my playing career to talk about anything that was on my chest or that was bothering me, whether it was rugby league or life off the field.

“I’ve had the highest of highs and I’ve certainly had the lowest of lows.

“I found it really comforting to be able to talk to someone professionally.

“While I do have some very close mates that I talk to about things that are going on in my life, professional help can give you building blocks to overcome the stresses, anxiety or whatever it is you may be feeling in your life.

“It’s been a tough year for a lot of people so don’t be shamed in asking for help.

“I’ve had professional help all throughout my life, ever since I was a teenager, so I can’t stress enough to look after your mental health.”

JT said the days of simply saying “she’ll be right” were gone.

“If you struggle with your mental health, please seek help.”

After his visit to Murgon, Thurston headed down to Cherbourg Oval to talk to more youngsters and their families.

JT’s inspirational career was recognised in 2019 when he was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for “significant service to rugby league, and as a role model”.

The former Kangaroo played in two premiership winning sides, multiple State of Origin and Indigenous All Stars games and either captained or co-captained the North Queensland Cowboys from 2007 to 2018.

He was Dally M Player of the Year in 2005, 2007, 2014 and 2015 and won the Clive Churchill Medal in 2015.

His off-field achievements include being a Board member of Tourism and Events Queensland and in 2018, he was named the Queensland Australian of the Year.

Thurston’s visit to Murgon and Cherbourg was made possible by the Darling Downs and West Moreton Primary Health Network and facilitated by Darling Downs Health.

It was part of a wider tour to the Southern Downs and Toowoomba which included school-based workshops.

Darling Downs Health spokesperson Greg Neilson said Thurston’s visits were aimed at lifting the spirits of regional communities, many of which have faced significant challenges.

“The workshops were aimed at building resilience and capacity,” he said.

“This year has been challenging for everyone, especially for people living in rural and remote areas who have also been dealing with the ongoing effects of the drought.”

Practising breaking through the defensive line to score a try

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Beyond The Nest’s Scott Prendergast and Carl Braithwaite explained the shape of the upcoming season to parents and players

The Beyond The Nest session at Murgon was also an opportunity for parents and players to be briefed on what the 2021 South Burnett rugby league season is likely to look like.

BTN Development Co-ordinator Scott Prendergast said the South Burnett competition would consist of Under 6s through to Under 14s plus A Grade.

Under 18s would play in the Toowoomba Junior Rugby League competition, the same as recent years.

However, due to small numbers,  Under 15s and Under 16s would also play as the South Burnett Eagles in a nine-team Toowoomba competition. Training sessions would be held in the South Burnett and half the fixtures games would also be played locally.

A 47th Battalion carnival would also be played to pick players for a “South Burnett hub”. At the end of the year, another carnival involving Wide Bay, South West Qld, Sunshine Coast and Toowoomba would be held to select players for the Central Crows to play in a city / country game before the Intrust Super Cup.

Women’s rugby league could include U14s, U17s and U19s teams but this was still being worked out.

A three-day Beyond The Nest camp would be held at the Murgon PCYC in January.

Beyond The Nest participants – U12s to 17s – were briefed ahead of their training sessions on Sunday

Anderssons Fruit Market for quality fruits and vegetables

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