A devastated Johnathan Thurston struggled to contain his emotions after the Cowboys’ controversial NRL finals loss to the Sydney Roosters.
A devastated Johnathan Thurston struggled to contain his emotions after North Queensland were knocked out of the NRL finals for a third consecutive year amid extraordinary controversy.
But the Cowboys refused to cry conspiracy.
Calls of another Sydney hatchet-job will again be ringing loud in Townsville after the video referee said no to a spectacular would-be Thurston try in the final minute which would have sunk the Sydney Roosters at Allianz Stadium.
The red light was put up for a Robert Lui knock-on and the Cowboys went down 31-30 in another epic thriller.
In 2012, the Cowboys were dudded by the “Hand of God” moment, in which Manly got away with Kieran Foran clearly knocking the ball forward in the lead up to a try.
Last season, Cronulla scored a try in their dramatic victory on the seventh tackle of a set.
On Friday night, after almost creating history by coming back from 30-0 down, the Cowboys were once again given reason to blame the officials.
This one at least appeared more 50-50 than the previous two occasions, with Cowboys five-eighth Lui getting a hand to an errant pass from Kyle Feldt.
According to Phil Gould and Wally Lewis in the Channel 9 commentary box it went backwards, but the officials said it went forward.
Cowboys coach Paul Green – after questioning the integrity of the NRL judiciary earlier this week – was gracious in defeat.
North Queensland were only blaming themselves for letting the Roosters put on five tries in the first half.
“Whether it’s right or wrong, it comes down to the start of the game,” he said.
“You can talk about those calls but at the end of the day it came down to the way we started.”
Thurston’s chances of leading the Cowboys to a maiden grand final win before he retires are getting longer and longer.
He was too shocked to talk at fulltime.
“Umm, arggh. I’m going to say something stupid, I’ll regret it,” said Thurston on Channel 9.
Gorden Tallis asked him about conspiracy, Thurston bit his tongue.
“Honestly I’m just speechless,” he said.
“It just wasn’t good enough in the end obviously.”
In the post-match press conference, Thurston said it would serve as a major learning curve for the Cowboys.
“I’m extremely proud of the boys,” he said.
Gould in his commentary expressed that the Cowboys were once again let down by the officials.
“For a long time in rugby league, that’s not a knock-on,” he said.
It wasn’t the only controversial moment of the dying stages either.
In the direct lead-up to the James Maloney field goal, the referees gave a penalty to the Roosters when Sonny Bill Williams appeared to lose it cold.
Then a clear forward pass from Roosters No.9 Jake Friend was missed.
Thurston won a grand final with Canterbury in 2004, as a bench player.
But for one of the greatest players of the modern era, he’s desperate to play the leading role in a premiership triumph.
His prospects of joining league’s Immortals may depend on it.