JT kicks goals for Quilpie

Rugby league legend Johnathan Thurston lifts spirits in Quilpie

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Johnathan Thurston tackled plenty of tough topics MCed by Quilpie's Ben Hall at the landholders' dinner.

Johnathan Thurston tackled plenty of tough topics MCed by Quilpie's Ben Hall at the landholders' dinner.

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Uplifting, reassuring, full-on - these are some of the words used by Quilpie locals to sum up the visit by rugby league legend Johnathan Thurston to the south west community last week.

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Uplifting, reassuring, full-on - these are some of the words used by Quilpie locals to sum up the visit by rugby league legend Johnathan Thurston to the south west community last week.

JT and his team from the JT Academy undertook a series of workshops with all sectors of the community, focusing on courage, confidence and self-belief, and encouraging conversations around mental health.

The main message for young and old was that it's OK if you're not OK; and that getting help is smart not weak.

"The days of standing proud and staying the course are a thing of the past. Mental health is real, and it hurts," Thurston said.

"We need to do more to show our communities that. They need to hear that we are with them. We need to be driving and encouraging conversations and checking in.

"I've been fortunate to spend the past few months travelling to a number of communities in remote parts of Queensland and I've seen and heard first-hand how tough they are doing it.

"Every conversation we've had or every meeting we have had has been about how to better support those doing it tough. This is a real issue and something we should all be tackling."

Related: Quilpie pays tribute to Burrumbuttock Hay Runners

Driving home the message to graziers that they were not alone in their battles, Thurston wrote and delivered personal letters during his three-day visit to Quilpie, commending them for the courage and resilience they used on a daily basis.

Quilpie local and deputy mayor Jenny Hewson said it had been uplifting to have someone with such a high profile come to their town and show his concern.

"He fitted right in," she said. "He spent quite a bit of time with the kids and was a great role model."

As well as hosting junior rugby league workshops, the ex-Cowboys star attended the official opening of the rehabilitated football oval before speaking at a business breakfast, sharing a seniors smoko and taking part in a rural landholders' dinner.

The three-day program also included a JTSucceed workshop to encourage youth to attend school until they have finished their education, and a JTFuture Leaders Workshop for 18 to 35-year-olds who hold, or are moving into, leadership positions.

JT talked to a group of children at the Quilpie State College.

JT talked to a group of children at the Quilpie State College.

Leaving no stone unturned, staff from the Quilpie Shire Council also benefited from a motivational session to boost morale.

Cr Hewson said it had all brought the community together a little more.

"It's refreshing to have someone come in when everyone's worried, right through from those on the land to town businesses.

"He talked about teamwork, not surprisingly, with his football background, and how it's better to work together."

According to mayor Stuart Mackenzie, Thurston's sharing of his own mental highs and lows had been very insightful for the community, along with the messages for young people.

"About half our shire, to the west and north, has had a decent season and is all fenced, but it's a different story to the east and south," he said. "They haven't come out of the dry at all."

He said the visit had boosted spirits of rural property owners and local business operators that had been particularly hard hit by the impacts of prolonged drought.

Those who braved the rain to attend the landholders dinner took part in a thought-provoking evening.

Those who braved the rain to attend the landholders dinner took part in a thought-provoking evening.

Spirits were lifted even further when 3.2mm of rain fell during Thurston's visit.

The program has previously been welcomed by the Mount Isa City and Balonne Shire councils.

"We have received nothing but positive feedback about JT's visit and greatly appreciate him taking the time to speak with our local youth," Mount Isa City Council mayor Joyce McCulloch said.

Balonne Shire mayor Richard Marsh said Thurston and his team were not just empowering youth, but also providing a boost to suffering communities.

"It was a great opportunity for people to meet one of league's legends and to take their mind off the drought for a little while," he said.

Read more: Hop to it Aussie made drought aid call

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