PLAYING AT Headingley created life-long memories for rugby league superstar Johnathan Thurston.
The Australia half-back led North Queensland Cowboys to a 38-4 win at Leeds Rhinos in this year’s World Club Challenge.
Now back in England for the Ladbrokes Four Nations, which begins tomorrow, Thurston said he has fond memories of that night eight months ago.
A three-time winner of the Golden Boot – awarded to the world’s best player – Thurston said: “It was quite a memorable game for us.
“Not only winning the World Club Challenge, but also playing at a ground that has so much history.
“It’s memories the boys will have forever, running out – especially for the warm-up – with the crowd chanting and singing their songs.
“I have really good memories of playing there.”
North Queensland ran away with the game in the second half, but Thurston admitted Rhinos pushed them all the way in the opening 40.
He recalled: “It was 4-4 at half-time. We found our groove in the second half and were able to score a few points.
“It was a memorable night for our players to experience playing at an English ground.”
Thurston said he has followed Rhinos’ results this year and was surprised to see them struggling at the wrong end of Super League.
“I think they had a lot of injuries, from what I’ve heard,” he said.
“When we played them at the start of the year they had a few then to key players.
“Obviously when you have injuries it is really going to test you to get the results you want.
“I heard they didn’t do too well compared to what they’ve done in the past.
“Leeds are obviously highly regarded as a successful club and they obviously don’t expect anything less than the best.”
The World Club Challenge was Thurston’s first competitive game this year and he is also set to finish the season in England.
Australia begin their Four Nations campaign against Scotland at Hull KR tomorrow and are favourites to reach the final at Liverpool FC’s Anfield on Sunday, November 20.
“It has been quite an enjoyable year,” said Thurston, who is being rested for Scotland game.
“We played the Kiwis in May in the ANZAK Test and the Origin campaign was successful for us [Queensland].
“Obviously we were disappointed with how the season ended at the Cowboys, but then we went into camp with the Kangaroos and had the Test against the Kiwis at Perth, which was a great result for us.
“Now we’re on the campaign over here and hopefully we can create some history, but it is going to be extremely tough.
“The Scottish are first up and they won the European Championships and they are building up for the World Cup next year.
“The more games New Zealand play the better they get and Wayne [Bennett] is coaching the English side now. He always gets the best out of his playing group and no doubt he will do that again.”