Johnathan Thurston opens up on 'horrific' family tragedy

Reflecting on the brutal death of his uncle was the hardest part of the process but Johnathan Thurston says writing his autobiography helped him realise how strong he really was.

The retired rugby league great launched his book at Suncorp Stadium on Tuesday, describing it as a scary but proud experience that led him to places he never thought he’d revisit.

“There’s a lot of things in there that I thought I’d never talk about,” he said.

“Being in the 2008 World Cup, the death of my uncle … it’s very open and honest and that’s what I love about it.”

Eight men were jailed for bashing Richard Saunders to death in 2008 while Thurston was in camp with the Kangaroos.

He ran out against Fiji just days later and claimed best on ground honours in a quarter-final performance he treasures as one of his most memorable.

Thurston launched his book on Tuesday. Image: AAP

“I knew how much it meant for my family to play in that game and think I got man of the match; think I went alright,” he laughed.

“I haven’t spoken about the death of my uncle since it’s happened; it was a little bit overwhelming, having to relive it.

“We’d lost a family member to horrific circumstances … it was very hard to talk about it.”

Thurston also recalled his playing days as a junior and the “crushing feeling” of being ignored by talent scouts from the Brisbane Broncos and other clubs.

He went on to play 323 NRL games and win titles with the Canterbury Bulldogs and North Queensland Cowboys, admitting there was always a chip on his shoulder.

“I always believed in myself that I was better than the boys that were getting the Broncos tracksuits,” he said.

“It was pretty crushing (being overlooked) but it helped shape who I am and made me more determined to stick it up ’em.

“(While writing the book I learned) how strong I was.”