IT was one of the greatest NRL Grand Finals in history and certainly a night the North Queensland Cowboys will never forget.
Johnathan Thurston’s golden-point field goal gave the Cowboys a dramatic 17-16 grand final win over Brisbane on Sunday at ANZ Stadium, handing the club their first premiership title in their 20-year history.
Man of the match Thurston earlier missed converting Kyle Feldt’s 80th-minute try that would have handed the Cowboys their maiden premiership.
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The ball curved late but hit the post, the heartbreak on Thurston’s face was obvious.
But Thurston, who was named as Clive Churchill medallist, made no mistake during golden point when he nailed a field goal in the 82th minute from close range.
In one of the most-dramatic rugby league deciders in history, a Ben Hunt knock-on from the start of golden point handed the Cowboys great field position and Thurston duly took advantage.
“I’m speechless,” Thurston told the Nine Network.
“Wow, I can’t believe what I’ve just done – I just love this club.
“We have worked so hard for this.”
Cowboys Coach, Paul Green, said Thurston showed what a champion he was to shrug off the disappointment of his missed conversion and land the one-pointer.
“He’s unbelievable,” Green said.
“When he took that goal, I don’t think there’s any other player that I’d want to take that goal. It wasn’t to be but he iced the game when he got the chance.”
Brisbane Broncos prop Sam Thaiday said it was difficult to send out skipper Justin Hodges as a loser.
“It was certainly a tough old game and one that’s probably going to go down in history,” Thaiday said.
“It’s the first time two Queensland teams have played in a grand final. Let’s hope it’s not the last time. Their squad and our squad – if we can keep them together for the next two years, we might be back in this situation.”
One player who will no doubt have had a tough night will be Broncos star Ben Hunt, who’s crucial error in the opening seconds of golden point will likely haunt him forever.
The Broncos rallied around their shattered playmaker, with Hodges insisting Hunt was the reason his team made the grand final.
Thurston also reached out to Hunt after his extra-time blunder gifted North Queensland the field goal winner.
The Cowboys co-captain and Clive Churchill Medal-winner didn’t forget his Queensland State of Origin teammate in their contrasting moments of agony and ecstasy after the match, telling Hunt to hold his head up high.