Johnathan Thurston (AAP Image/Michael Chambers)
The thought of farewelling Johnathan Thurston as an NRL wooden spooner doesn't bear thinking about for the living legend's North Queensland teammates.
"JT's last year - obviously no one wanted to send him out the way we have this year," Thurston's long-time Cowboys, Queensland Origin and Australian Test ally Matt Scott said ahead of the champion halfback's one last cherished derby with Brisbane on Thursday night.
"Obviously no one wants to get the wooden spoon. We're not really talking about it or thinking about it too much at the moment. It's about finishing the year off strongly.
"So it would be nice to get a few wins on the board leading into the end of the year."
The truth is, though, Thurston and the Cowboys are neck deep in a desperate battle to avoid the dreaded spoon after fashioning just five wins from 20 matches in 2018.
Such a scenario at the start of the season was unthinkable.
With Thurston returning to bolster their roster following shoulder surgery, the Cowboys were immediately installed as 2018 premiership favourites after losing last year's grand final to Melbourne without their talismanic leader.
With no Cooper Cronk, it was considered no deal for the Storm.
In a decorated 17-season career featuring two premierships from three grand finals, a record three Golden Boots as the world's best player, an unmatched four Dally M Medals, a World Cup and 11 Origin series wins, Thurston has never felt the wooden spoon.
The future Immortal's hopes of avoiding it in his NRL swansong season could well come down to helping the Cowboys trump equal-last-placed Parramatta in a high-stakes showdown in Townsville in the penultimate round.
© AAP 2018