Why is a footballer hailed as a hero, just for acting like a decent human being?

Is this enough?

We’ve got a new hero this week. A King.

A knock-about kinda guy who is so humble he skipped a traditional drinking session after his big win and instead went on “Daddy Duty”, according to the tabloids.

A man whose first act when he won the prize of his life was to embrace his partner and child.

A good man, indeed. But what does it say about us that a man who shows love and respect to a woman is such a celebrated oddity?

The hero I am referring to is Johnathan Thurston, the dynamic player who made Sunday night’s NRL Grand Final one of the most exciting ever.

The 32-year old whose photo of him and his gorgeous daughter clutching a toy doll instantly went viral.

The picture that literally stopped the hearts of every woman watching the NRL grand final. Image: NRL Facebook.

A great bloke. The King of the North.

Let me firstly state there is no doubt Johnathan Thurston is a great role model for young footballers and indigenous youths.

There is no doubt he displays good sportsmanship in a time when so few do. There is no doubt he will go on to be one of the greatest players the sport has seen.

There is no doubt he’s a great father, has two delightful little girls and appears to be a loving and devoted husband.

But seriously, isn’t that what we should expect from a man? Really? That he loves his children and treats his partner well?

Johnathon Thurston’s daughters. Image: Instagram.

Is the bar so low in our male role models that completely ordinary behaviour seems worthy of extra special adulation?

“He’s the kind of guy we want our sons to grow up to be,” is what everyone is saying on daytime radio today.

Sure, as a mother of two boys I’d be proud to call him my son. But I’d like to have a few more to choose from. And I’d like them to have a few more role models to choose from.

The damning thing is that we are so used to misogyny in sport these days anyone who shows a decent attitude towards women is immediately elevated to hero status.

I’m not talking about his obvious sporting talents – that’s hard to deny  – but why are we so delighted that a bloke skipped a beer or two with his mates to go spend time with his family? Why are we endeared when he thanks his partner when he wins a medal?

Johnathan with his wife Samantha and their daughter. Image: Instagram.

The reason is simple: Because there are so few good guys in sport these days. He is indeed a rare breed.

In a month where a former great of the game, Andrew Johns,  allegedly drunkenly harassed a woman at an airport questioning one on whether they had a “caesarean or not”, and asking a mother-of-three for a kiss we hold on to nice guys like Thurston for dear life.


In a month where Billy Brownless, a former AFL great, was publicly outed as referring to a mother and her 18-year-old daughter as “strippers” while hosting a football luncheon at the Glenferrie hotel, guys like Thurston are rare.

At a time when it is almost eye-rollingly common to hear that another footballer is being investigated for domestic violence, we can’t quite believe it when one appears to be a caring, respectful partner.

We are almost becoming blasé to the culture of drugs and misogyny in sport.

Johnathon Thurston at the end of the NRL grand final. Image: NRL Facebook.

We tut at players who “accidentally overdose” on prescription drugs and we continue to cheer on players like the Sydney Roosters Shaun Kenny-Dowall who fronted the court in August accused of countless domestic violence charges.

The macho culture of the game leaves us little to worship. NRL is a game surrounded by conflict and scandal. AFL perhaps even more so.

Drugs, rape allegations, players found guilty of inserting their fingers into the anus of opposition players, players accused of urinating on other men in the bathroom of a pub.

Numerous assaults against women across the years.

A Cronulla Sharks player, Greg Bird sentenced to a maximum of 16 months jail when he was found guilty of glassing his then girlfriend in 2008.

Greg Bird. Image: Instagram.

And right back to 2004 when a 20-year old woman alleged that six Bulldogs players raped her in the pool of the team’s hotel at Coffs Harbour, New South Wales – and in the same year two AFL clubs accused of being involved in a gang rape in an Adelaide nightclub.

The Bulldogs players were never charged as the woman’s claims were never verified – and the AFL players were rumoured to have paid the alleged victim $200,000 after she commenced a civil action – but it started a long overdue conversation about violence against women and misogyny in the sport.

A conversation that still needs to be had 11 years later. A conversation that is still not resolved.

We grab onto Johnathan Thurston as a hero because the bar is low.

Here’s what we need to hear: Yes, he’s a great guy. But where are the others?

The sport needed a fairytale and along he came on Sunday night. The fans needed a role model.

But what the female fans needed was a good guy.

What we need now are more of them.

Are you impressed with Jonathan Thurston’s on and off-field behaviour?