I remember going Suncorp stadium with my father when I was young. It was Sunday afternoon and we drove to the then Lang Park to see Wynnum-Manly take on the Jets.
It was when the Brisbane competition was alive and kicking and there was one man that evey one was there to see Wally Lewis. He was all anyone talked about. As I sat in awe of a then, and still legend of the game I wonder what it takes to make an immortal.
Thurston's record speaks for itself. Multiple Dally M winner, record point scoring records for his club, state and country he has done everything in the game you could possibly do. Most people call him out for not winning a premiership, forgetting as a rookie he won a premiership with the Bulldogs coming off the bench.
He reads the game better than anyone has in recent memory and his defense (often thought of as his weakness) has gotten stronger and better over the last two seasons. He is an immaculate talent with the boot, and he has an impeccable passing game. And in the era when you have two sides of the ruck and most pivots prefer the left or right side of the field he can play on both the left and the right. But all of that being said what is it? What is the x-factor, what makes an immortal?.
Well you need to see a game live to know, it's what everyone saw in Lewis when I saw him that Sunday afternoon when I was a young boy at lang park. It is the same thing I saw Andrew Johns do for NSW, again live, countless times in Origin. Control the game. And this isn't simply call the plays. Anyone can do that, 'left', 'right', 'hook 74', 'cattledog' (as it has become famous). I mean literally control the tempo of the game.
When these great players are on the field the game speeds up and slows down as they dictate. They seemingly have so much time with the ball in their hands because the players in defense are waiting for them, in their own time, to do what they please with the ball. They make players question themselves and become reactionary. You can however, see that on a television set.
When you see a player live, you get to see what sets them apart, what you get to see is how they control the game off the ball. When you see an immortal in action they are in the play when they are not in the play. Other players make their move based on where they think the immortal is or isn't going to be and what they think they will or wont do. Attacking teams change their point of attack because the immortal in defense will them to. I have seen Thurston force attacking teams in bad positions in their set purely by the way he organizes his line and shifts and moves the ruck. I think that is what makes an immortal. Lewis had it in spades. Johns has it to a degree. Thurston...well if you get the chance to see him live, please do yourself a favor.