His body may be holding up well but Johnathan Thurston has revealed his final NRL season has been very challenging mentally.
Ahead of his final home game for North Queensland, Thurston said physically he had no complaints after a remarkable recovery from shoulder surgery that sabotaged his 2017 season.
However, the 35-year-old is at peace with his decision to retire at season's end after a mentally draining year with the misfiring Cowboys.
Rock-bottom North Queensland are desperate to avoid the wooden spoon and provide Thurston a fitting home farewell when they host Parramatta in Townsville on Friday night.
Thurston said his recovery from last June's shoulder surgery had surprised even his specialist after playing every minute of North Queensland's season to date.
"Coming back from shoulder reco the surgeon has been very happy," the Cowboys co-captain said.
"He said I was probably better than he thought I would be considering the amount of damage it had.
"Physically I have been OK. Mentally it has been very challenging."
The veteran playmaker admitted he had found it hard to cope with the Cowboys' frustrating results this year.
Seven of North Queensland's losses this year have been by seven points or less.
"Being so close and not getting the result...there have been a lot of games where we have come home with a wet sail but haven't been able to convert it into points," Thurston said.
"That's been the most challenging and frustrating part about it. There have been times when we have needed a rocket or two as well."
Thurston hoped it proved a valuable learning curve for the Cowboys before he draws the curtain on his glittering 17-season career.
"A lot of boys here that have come through this team, they haven't had a year like this," he said.
"It reminds me when we made the 2007 preliminary final and finished 15th (second last) in 2008; they are very similar."
Thurston has tried to keep his emotions in check before running out for the final time in Townsville and said he has no retirement regrets.
"I am just enjoying what is left," he said.
"I have been content with my decision for some time."
Australian Associated Press