North Queensland Cowboys and Queensland Maroons playmaker Johnathan Thurston will have surgery on his injured shoulder and will not play rugby league again in 2017.
The injury comes as a blow to both the Cowboys' premiership hopes and Queensland's Origin aspirations, with Thurston being an integral part of both teams.
Cowboys coach Paul Green and Thurston addressed the media on Friday, but released few details on the injury that Thurston sustained in Queensland's epic 18-16 win in Origin II, or when the surgery is scheduled for. Green confirmed that the problem is in the rotator cuff, while Thurston cited a recovery time of six months, which will have him fit in late December, likely after the Rugby League World Cup.
"After Johnathan sustained his injury in Origin II, given that it was already an injured shoulder, the club and the player have decided that it's best for him to get surgery immediately, effectively finishing his season for 2017," Green said.
The problem has stemmed from the same injury that kept Thurston out of State of Origin I, and the increased damage had to be addressed with surgery to ensure Thurston's health after he retired.
Despite being in obvious pain in the first half of Origin I, Green was happy for Thurston to stay on and finish the game, and didn't criticise the decisions made by the Queensland staff.
"Origin is a high stakes game and you don't know at that stage what had happened. It could have been a cork. Lucky for Queensland he didn't [go off] he kicked us home to victory so that's not an issue for us," Green said.
"Having known him for the last few years that I've worked with him it doesn't surprise me. I don't need to sit here and expunge about how great he is but toughness is one of his traits and he displayed that on Wednesday night. To kick the goal to win the game that doesn't surprise me at all that's the type of player he is."
The Cowboys are looking to the future, and are confident that they can still achieve their goals for 2017, albeit with some extra difficulty given the absence of the champion playmaker from the field.
"[Thurston] is an integral part of the team and the club, he's one of our captains. [The team's] first thought was for 'JT' to make sure he's alright and the injury comes next," the coach said.
"It gives us a bit of steely determination too. We know what we want to achieve this year as a team and that's probably made it a little bit tougher given how good a player he is.
"It's probably given the group a bit more determination now to come together and still achieve what we wanted to achieve."
A devastated Thurston was disappointed to find out the severity of the injury, believing it was initially a simple cork to an already-tender area.
"The next morning doing some tests I could lift my arm above my head, out to the side whereas after the (Anzac) test I couldn't do that so it was encouraging signs [Thursday] morning," Thurston said.
"I got the scan and the news isn't good and the best decision for myself and the club is to get the operation done.
"I thought I might have been able to pump one or two more games out but the medical advice I've been given is, 'if you want to live a healthy life after football it's best to get this done now.'"
Green has no intention of letting Thurston's knowledge and experience go to waste, and has plans for the playmaker to take up a position with the coaching staff.
"It's alright, he'll have a job on the coaching staff. I'll keep him busy," Green said.
Thurston stated that he will stick to his decision to retire from representative football at the end of the year, meaning Game Two on Wednesday night will more than likely by the last representative match Thurston plays.