Channel 9 colleagues have revealed how Johnathan Thurston flew down to Sydney on Thursday to commentate the NRL clash between Melbourne and Penrith, only to fly straight back to Townsville after learning of Paul Green's tragic death.
A former player and coach who took North Queensland to their maiden premiership in 2015, Green was found unresponsive at his home in Brisbane on Thursday.
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Police have confirmed there are no suspicious circumstances in his death.
Thurston, who played under Green during his tenure as Cowboys coach from 2014 to 2020, learned of the devastating news after flying down to Sydney on Thursday afternoon.
He has been left so distraught by his former coach's death that he flew straight back home to Townsville and was unable to conduct his commentary duties for Channel 9.
Host James Bracey told viewers during the broadcast: “Our mate Johnathan Thurston was meant to be with us here.
“We send our condolences to JT, who’s hurting.”
Thurston famously kicked the field goal to win the 2015 grand final for the Cowboys and was extremely close to Green.
Cameron Smith said on Channel 9: “I spent a couple of hours with JT this afternoon. He was absolutely devastated, as were many of the players and his teammates in that Cowboys outfit that were coached by Paul Green.
“We just want to send our best wishes to all those players and particularly our mate JT. He’s flying home right now actually to be with his family.
“Mate, we feel for you and as the entire rugby league community do for everyone that was involved with Paul Green and his family, we wish you all the very best.”
Smith sent his condolences to Green's family.
“Heartbreaking, pretty hard to believe actually,” he said.
“Still in shock that we’ve heard the news that we did just before lunch time today.
“Many people think of him as a coach but he was such a wonderful player as well - played close to 160 NRL games, played in a grand final with the Sharks in the Super League season, played for Queensland, represented Australia in a Test match.
“Just so very sad to hear of his passing and we send our best wishes to the entire Green family.”
Paul Green's family left devastated after death
Green is survived by wife Amanda and children Emerson and Jed.
“Today we are devastated,” his family said in a statement.
“We have lost a devoted husband, loving father and wonderful brother and son. We cannot find the words that would come close to expressing our feeling, however we would like to extend our thanks to those who have reached out to us with their love and support.
“Paul was loved by so many and we know that this news will generate immense interest, however at this time we ask for privacy.
“Our family is still trying to understand this tragedy and we request space and time as we come to terms with this loss. Thank you.”
Green played 162 first grade games as a halfback, five-eighth and hooker across stints with Cronulla, North Queensland, Sydney Roosters, Parramatta and Brisbane.
He also played seven State of Origins for Queensland, as well as three Origin games and two Tests for Australia during Super League in 1997.
He won the Rothmans Medal in 1995 as the league's best and fairest player, and went on to coach Queensland in the 2021 State of Origin series.
He coached the Cowboys in 167 games, with the 2015 premiership coming in just his second season as head coach.
"Paul first came to our club as a player in the late 90s and was the club’s first Origin representative, but his lasting legacy emanated from his seven-season tenure as head coach of the North Queensland Cowboys,” said club chairman Lewis Ramsay.
“Paul’s arrival as head coach transformed our club from finals contenders to an immediate premiership force, culminating in the historic 2015 grand final victory.
“We will forever remember Paul as one of the greatest contributors in Cowboys history.”
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