Johnathan Thurston with rugby league fans James, Tanya and Allan Christensen, at the KCCI meet’n’greet on Monday night at the Kingaroy Red Ants clubhouse in Kingaroy

May 24, 2022

The South Burnett has played host for the past few days to retired rugby league superstar Johnathan Thurston AM.

Thurston’s stellar career includes stints with the Kangaroos, Maroons, Indigenous All Stars and North Queensland Cowboys as well as numerous awards including multiple Dally M medals, the Clive Churchill Medal and Golden Boot awards.

He was made a Member of the Order of Australia in the 2019 Queen’s Birthday Honours List

Thurston was brought to the South Burnett to share insights from his JT Academy program with young people at local schools, older men and the general community.

(And also sign more than a few autographs).

He visited Kingaroy State High School and St Mary’s Catholic College on Monday, took in a Kingaroy Chamber of Commerce meet’n’greet on Monday night and visited the Murgon Men’s Shed and Murgon State High School on Tuesday before being the special guest at a big community event at Kingaroy Town Hall on Tuesday night.

On Wednesday, he was due to surprise the students at Nanango State High School and Yarraman P-9.

Thurston said his JT Academy aimed to inspire the next generation to be the best that they can be.

“Every program that we run is about confidence, courage and self-belief,” he said.

“They are the three characteristics that I had to display as a teenager to help me get where I am today.”

* * *

KCCI Meet’n’Greet

The South Burnett Eagles hosted the Kingaroy Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s May meet’n’greet on Monday night, with Thurston as the special guest.

KCCI meet’n’greets are always well-attended, but this one – held at the Kingaroy Red Ants’ clubhouse – broke records with more than 100 people booked in.

Guests listened intently as Thurston and JT Academy general manager Samantha Johnston explained the philosophy behind the Academy, which has been working with communities in the Torres Strait, Yarrabah and Kowanyama.

Other meet’n’greet highlights:

  • South Burnett Rugby League president Dave Tierney spoke about the successful “Beyond The Nest” training program which is teaching young players the finer points of rugby league as well as discipline.
  • Cr Danita Potter, from the South Burnett Suicide Prevention Working Group, explained how the JT Academy tour of the South Burnett came about after a group of local people recognised the need to reach out to young people at high school and older men. They spoke to Queensland Health and the South Burnett Regional Council.
  • South Burnett Relay For Life patron Carl Rackemann said the upcoming launch of this year’s fundraising campaign would be held at a community charity breakfast at the Kingaroy RSL Club on June 3, hosted by the KCCI. Tickets can be booked online
  • KCCI Executive member Michael Sanford (Bunyarra Counselling) said Minister Di Farmer had been on the telephone within hours after he and KCCI president Damien Martoo made a presentation at a conference in Townsville about the Chamber’s SMILE mental health initiative. It would now be rolled out via the CCIQ to 50 chambers across Queensland.
  • The next SMILE gala event will be held on October 14.
  • The KCCI has received a grant from Stanwell Corporation to complete the fitout of the Hub building in Kingaroy Street, which should now open at the end of July.
  • The next KCCI meet’n’greet will be hosted by the new South Burnett Youth Council on June 14.
  • The KCCI is urging members to sign an online petition, organised by the Australian Counselling Association, for Medicare rebates to be paid to counsellors.
JT poses with members of the KCCI Executive … back row, secretary Paula Greenwood (PG Mobile Bookkeeping), Jacqui Trace (Bill Hull Car Centre), Lachlan Brown (Pakaderinga), Darrin Kefford (Kingaroy Joinery), Michael Sanford (Bunyarra Counselling), Rob Fitz-Herbert (RYZA) and David Musch (Ken Mills Toyota); front row, president Damien Martoo (CROW-FM), Johnathan Thurston and Daniel Pelcl (Burnett Today)
Kingaroy Red Ants’ volunteers Wayne Frohloff, vice-president Marty McCracken and Janelle Frohloff
South Burnett Rugby League president Dave Tierney was working hard keeping the KCCI guests well-fed
Cr Danita Potter, Darren Schmidt, from Kingaroy; and Jack Newbery (Blooms The Chemist)
Michael Sanford (Bunyarra Counselling and Mediation) with Darrin Kefford (Kingaroy Joinery) … Michael spoke to the meeting about how the KCCI’s SMILE program has now been adopted by the CCIQ
John Carey (Stanwell), Mistrel Badesso (Endeavour Foundation) and Karen Wall (Stanwell)
JT with members of the local rugby league family, including volunteers and executive members from local clubs
A quick crowd photo at the end of the night … and there were even more people out on the verandah!

* * *

Murgon Men’s Shed

Cherbourg Radio’s Kimberly Barrett interviews Johnathan Thurston in Murgon on Tuesday (Photo: CASC)

Cherbourg Radio’s Kimberly Barrett interviewed JT after he dropped in to visit the Murgon Men’s Shed on Tuesday.

Thurston talked about country, culture (his mother is Gunggari), his visits to local schools and how local hero Selwyn Cobbo will be able to handle Origin duties if selected.

Members of other Men’s Sheds from across the South Burnett were invited to attend the lunch, hosted by the Murgon group.

Footnote: Kimberly is making rugby league history in her own right. She is one of the trio of women, alongside Lynette Brown and Luella Blair, who make up the first all-female committee to run a rugby league club, the Cherbourg Hornets.

Johnathan Thurston with members of the Murgon Men’s Shed and visitors on Tuesday (Photo: Kathy Duff)

* * *

Kingaroy Community Event

The free community event with JT – which was to be held in the Kingaroy Town Hall Forecourt on Tuesday night – was shifted indoors after several showers during the afternoon.

Thurston was swamped by kids (and adults) when he arrived, all wanting autographs or photos.

Eventually an orderly line was formed to allow everyone a fair chance of meeting their hero.

The Town Hall was lined with stalls from local agencies who offer mental health supports. There was a lot of interaction with crowd members who collected free giveaways as well as brochures explaining the various services.

Although the Town Hall was filled with people, most were probably from around Kingaroy as, disappointingly, few people availed themselves of the opportunity of catching the free buses organised from other South Burnett towns.

Johnathan Thurston with Margie Hams, from the South Burnett Regional Council who did most of the groundwork organising the visit, and JT Academy general manager Samantha Johnson
People rushed forward to meet Johnathan Thurston when he entered the Kingaroy Town Hall
Eventually a queue formed, which stretched across the hall and down one sife, for people to get autographs
Megan Theobold, from the Mental Health Service at Kingaroy Hospital
Andrea McGee, from rHealth in Kingaroy
Erin Jeffs and Shelley Hayden, from Centacare
Live music was performed by RYZA, ie Rob and Clare Fitz-Herbert
Kristy Board and Nikki Briggs, from BIEDO
Councillors Danita Potter, Gavin Jones and Jane Erkens
Andrew Saal, from Lives Lived Well, with Troy Miller and Matthew Vels, from Your Town, and Ashleigh Vels, from Living Hope Community Services
Melissa Stewart and Clowry Kennell from the STAY program at Cherbourg, ie. “Sit Talk And Yarn with me”
Kingaroy Rotary members had a burger stall outside the hall, with funds raised to support the South Burnett Suicide Prevention Working Group
Some of the large crowd which gathered in the Kingaroy Town Hall


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