18 Sep 2013

Conspiracy on the down-low as Thurston wins RLPA award

6:19 am on 18 September 2013

North Queensland rugby league star Johnathan Thurston has capped a tumultuous week by winning his second 'Players' Player' award, edging out Sonny Bill Williams, Todd Carney, Cameron Smith and Anthony Watmough.

There were no conspiracy theories anywhere to be seen in Sydney on Tuesday night - but also no Thurston, who's been cleared by the NRL of any wrongdoing over a rant after his Cowboys' second straight controversial playoffs exit over a refereeing blunder.

Thurston suggested there was a conspiracy against non-Sydney NRL clubs and while he didn't return to Sydney to collect the award, the 30-year-old made no mention of his team's unfortunate finals exit in a

recorded video message.

With three-month-old daughter Frankie Louise on his knee, Thurston, who first won the award in 2005, said he was extremely humbled and it's a privilege to be voted by his peers, and there's no higher honour in the game.

The Rugby League Players' Association award is voted on in a 3-2-1 basis by opposition players each game.

Thurston had suggested there were forces at work against teams like North Queensland, which came on the back of coach Neil Henry throwing up Sydney-centric conspiracy theories.

On his arrival in Brisbane on Sunday, Thurston said that while Queensland dominate at State of Origin level, New South Wales is crying out for something and they seem to be getting it.

The NRL reviewed the comments and declared that Thurston had been misinterpreted, with NRL head of football Todd Greenberg saying in a statement that at no stage was there a reference to the integrity of the officials.

Thurston received support from Carney, the man who helped engineer the controversial seventh tackle try on Saturday night.

Carney says it's unfortunate what happened, and he feels for the Cowboys and Thurston, the club's captain, and it's right that he shouldn't be fined for those comments because it was the heat of the moment.

Carney was one of a smattering of NRL stars to attend the RLPA's big night, which is gaining recognition amongst the NRL community.

South Sydney prop George Burgess was named rookie of the year, Kangaroos skipper Cameron Smith the Australian representative player of the year and Issac Luke the New Zealand equivalent.