Behind the picture
I was lucky enough to cover this years historical NRL Grand Final featuring The Brisbane Broncos and North Queensland Cowboys.
It was the first time two non Sydney teams played in the big dance and it was also the first time the boys from NQ won the Premiership.
There was much talk during the week leading up to the game that it wouldn't have the typical Grand Final atmosphere. Seeing it was two teams from Queensland playing in NSW the talk was very much warranted.
But the fears were washed away by Cold Chisel belting out Kay San, the stage was now set and those doubts were long gone.
The game itself was a classic Grand Final battle, both teams scored in the first half and it was anyone's game coming into the second half.
With the Brisbane Broncos having a small 4 point lead coming into the final minutes, the Cowboys chance was all but gone. The fairy tale of the great Wayne Bennett returning home to win the comp was almost complete.
But when you have a champion in your team like Thurston, even the fat lady gets a little nervous.
With a miracle strip of the ball in the final seconds of the game.
The Cowboys now had the ball and with Thurston brushing off defenders and six zagging away from his own try line. The crowd of 82000 went ballistic with anticipation.
As he passed the ball to his half Michael Morgan he darted across field and popped a flick pass to Kyle Feldt that would make Matt Gidley proud. The winger now hero Feldt scored in the corner. If Homebush had a roof it would've been blown off by the thousands of screaming Cowboys supporters. And a few photographers too (myself included) Brad Fittler got a little excited too.
It was now up to JT to now seeming win his place in history by converting from the sideline.
As the crowd held it's breath he brushed off the TV cameras as he took his steps to convert.
It looks good, it looks good, even Thurston thought it was over. But even fairy tales have a twist.
It hits the post. The crowd again goes silent.
The only thing we know is extra time is coming. And that means moments of madness.
We were not disappointed as again Thurston kicks off and the ball awaits young Broncos halfback Ben Hunt.
The rest is history, Hunt drops the ball and the Cowboys have a scrum in front of the sticks.
The play eventually goes to the left then back to the middle and the man known as JT kicks the extra time field goal. The noise at that moment is as loud as any crowd I have ever heard. The cowboy players high five, jump and generally enjoy some man love. The Broncos players shed some tears and wondered what could have been.
A devastated Ben Hunt stands only a few meters away from my spot on the sideline, I can actually feel his sadness. A touching moment ensures as captain Justin Hodges comforts the young man. Unlike Hodges he will play again next year.
Back to the picture at hand. As the Cowboys players were on the final stages of their victory lap, the bulk of the players were along the fence line greeting their heavily excited fans. There were smiles, cheering, first pumping and plenty of pats on the back. But one thing was missing.
I kept an eye of for their Captain and game winning hero Thurston. The man of the moment.
He was standing about 20 meters back from the pack of players, photographers and TV cameras. Soaking it all in and holding his beautiful daughter.
His time to party and celebrate with his teammates would wait. This seemed a man content in his life and happy to watch it unfold a little further back from the crowd.
I separated from the pack and headed closer towards the champion, fired off a few pictures and recorded my own piece of history. To be that close to my hero as he just achieved his dream, shake his hand and say congrats. It is those small moments in my life as a photographer that make the ups and downs and the sacrifices all worth while.
Til next time