Rugby league royalty Johnathan Thurston has cemented his legacy as rugby’s most popular player, with a heartfelt gesture to the woman who saved his career.
Thurston, who is recovering from season-ending shoulder surgery, flew from Townsville to Sydney to surprise 79-year-old cancer patient Mary Durose at this week’s Men Of League Gala in Sydney.
Mrs Durose holds a special place in Thurston’s heart after she and her husband Peter opened their home to him when he moved from Queensland to Belmore to play for the Canterbury Bulldogs as a teenager.
The pair had not seen each other in over a decade.
And as Thurston recalled, her counsel kept him from quitting rugby league.
“I remember being in (coach) Ricky Stuart’s office crying to go home, he let me go home for a week but Mary made me promise to come back,” Thurston told Channel 7.
Watch the heartwarming moment below:
— Liam Cox (@LiamCox_TV) July 27, 2017
Mrs Durose was equally in awe of Thurston.
“He was a man of his word. He was a wonderful man,” she said.
“He’s a credit to his people, but I can tell you we had a lot of lads like him and they came to nothing.”
Mrs Durose’s home was known as the “Bulldogs House” after she loved, nurtured and fed more than 300 young Canterbury players for 22 years, including Sonny Bill Williams, Willie Mason and Nate Myles.
The House was closed in 2003 when Mary was struck down by mouth cancer, and Peter was confined to a wheelchair after multiple strokes.
Thurston reminisced with his childhood mentor with fond memories of years gone by, but for the happy-go-lucky halfback, none was more special than her Friday night dinners.
“I thought my mum had the best spag bol until I tasted Mary’s spag bol,” Thurston said.
“I always looked forward to that on Friday nights – Mary’s spag bol.”