In an extraordinary show of support for flood victims, a host of rugby league legends on Nine’s commentary team have generated $66,844 through an auction driven by Johnathan Thurston.
As the floods ravaged through Queensland and New South Wales, the former Cowboys champion new he had to do something.
Having played 294 of his 323 career NRL games in North Queensland, Thurston was used to seeing natural disasters in the area, but this time the devastation was on a larger scale.
The memorabilia room inside Thurston’s house is fit to be a rugby league museum. It contains dozens of game balls from his many iconic games. The walls are draped with framed jerseys.
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Thurston walked inside and had an idea about how he could assist those whose lives had been turned upside down by the floods.
“Seeing on the news the devastation through south-east Queensland and northern New South Wales with the floods, people have lost everything, so to raise funds I thought I’d donate a State of Origin jersey,” he told Wide World of Sports.
Along with Thurston’s 2007 game-one jersey, Brad Fittler’s 1993 game-two jersey, Darren Lockyer’s 2006 game-one jersey, Greg Inglis’ 2013 game-two jersey, Billy Slater’s 2017 game-two jumper, Cameron Smith’s 2013 game-three jersey, Sam Thaiday’s 2011 game-one jersey, Paul Gallen’s 2016 game-two jumper and Andrew Johns’ 2003 game-one jersey were all auctioned off for the NRL’s flood appeal auction.
Johns’ 2003 game-one jumper drew the most money with $15,000, and Thurston’s 2007 game-one jersey attracted $7000.
Each of the other jumpers produced between $3000 and $8715.
Thurston in game one of the 2007 series was famously named player of the match in a 25-18 Queensland win.
“We won 2-1 that year, but that was also our first win in Sydney (in game two) in 12 games,” Thurston recalled.
“I treasure all my jerseys in that arena, but I thought that was a pretty special one, having that first win in Sydney in 11 games.
“I think that might’ve also been my first win in an Origin in Sydney, as well, so it’s a very special jersey.”
However, Thurston knew his jersey alone would not be enough, so he came up with another idea.
“I spoke to Fordo (Nine’s head of NRL, Simon Fordham) about it and then I started asking the other boys on the commentary team if they could get on board,” Thurston said.
“Obviously these jerseys are very treasured items to everyone that’s worn that jersey, so I felt uncomfortable asking, but they all jumped on board straight away.
“They’ve obviously supported us players in the Origin arena and in club footy and Test footy.
“They’re doing it tough and I thought this was a small way to support them through a very difficult time.”
Thurston was taken aback by the support he received from his fellow NRL greats.
“It was (a hard decision),” Thurston admitted.
“Speaking to the other boys, as well, they’ve all dug into their collections.
“It’s such a tough decision, but it’s a decision the boys have jumped on board with, all because we’ve seen the devastation the floods have caused, and it’s a small token that’s hopefully going to make a difference in the lives of people that have been affected by the floods.”
Fordham said he was astounded by the incredible acts of Nine’s rugby league commentators.
“In recent days we have been blown away by the generosity of our commentators who have decided to donate their SOO playing jerseys to help raise funds for those affected by the floods in Queensland and NSW,” Fordham said.
“Johnathan Thurston has driven this concept from the beginning and secured support from Billy Slater, Andrew Johns, Cameron Smith, Brad Fittler, Darren Lockyer, Sam Thaiday, Paul Gallen and Greg Inglis.
“The generosity of these rugby league legends will make a difference to the areas of the rugby league community that desperately need it.”
Fans will be able to place bids on the iconic State of Origin jerseys for two weeks, with the total sum of money raised going directly to the NRL flood appeal fund.
The fund will help junior football clubs in both Queensland and NSW impacted by the disaster.