Johnathan Thurston has had many career highlights but one moment in Test football stands out for the champion playmaker.
It was during the 2006 Tri-Nations final. Thurston had made his debut for Australia earlier that year, appearing in Andrew Johns’ last Test as the Kangaroos flogged the Kiwis 50-12. Now Thurston was the main man at No.7.
The trans-Tasman rivals had slogged their way to12-all at full-time. Nothing could separate them. Yet New Zealand were tired as golden point wore on. They only had 15 healthy players, with Motu Tony knocked out during a rampaging Willie Mason run.
The game – and the Kiwis’ Tri-Nations title won in a Leeds boilover 12 months earlier – was in the balance. In the 87th minute, Thurston saw an opportunity about 35 metres out from his own try-line.
“I remember getting the ball, one off the ruck, going to the line and threw the dummy, palming (David) Kidwell off,” Thurston tells Commentary Box Sports.
“Kidwell used to terrorise me every game I played against him – it was nice to get one back on him.
“I remember running through to my outsider, because that’s where the support was – saw ‘Locky’ (Darren Lockyer) on my inside and gave him the ball. He had a 30-metre sprint to the try-line and ended up winning the game.”
David Kidwell is now the New Zealand coach. Thurston has continued to terrorise Kidwell by playing a dominant role with three wins from three starts against the Kiwis since the former hard-man took the reins.
Whether the Kiwis mentor can reverse the trend during the ANZAC Test or the World Cup remains a major talking point in what has been slated as Thurston’s farewell season on the representative stage – and there’s little question Kidwell will breathe a small sigh of relief if JT is ruled out of Friday’s showdown in Canberra with injury.