Johnathan Thurston of the Cowboys reacts after scoring a try which was disallowed during the Round 13 NRL match between the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles and the North Queensland Cowboys at Lottoland in Sydney, Thursday, May 31, 2018. (AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts)
Johnathan Thurston's storied career faces the most innocuous of endings as his nightmare farewell season shows no sign of turning.
The North Queensland great and future Immortal had hoped to ride into the sunset with another NRL premiership after returning from injury to go around again with the much-hyped Cowboys.
Instead last year's grand finalists have limped to a horror 4-10 start, sitting 14th and likely needing to win at least nine of their last 10 regular season games to sneak into finals.
On form that looks well beyond them, even after last year's fairytale run to the decider having relied on other results to even make the top eight.
It means his last professional game is likely to take place on the Gold Coast against a Titans side tracking almost as poorly.
The anticlimactic farewell would be a far cry from where Thurston could have left it last year when, carrying a serious shoulder injury, he heroically kicked the winning goal in Origin II to keep the series alive.
Thurston cut a shattered figure after the Cowboys' 20-14 loss to Parramatta in Darwin on Saturday, lamenting his side's struggle to execute the most basic of skills.
His side's plight prompted Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga to suggest, in a nod to the future, that it was time the 35-year-old took a back seat and hand the primary play-making duties to Michael Morgan.
But former Queensland forward Billy Moore, who was on commentary duties in Darwin on the weekend, said that wouldn't work.
"It'd be like asking a workaholic to stop working ... he'd probably start doing push-ups on the field (if he wasn't first receiver)," Moore told AAP.
"They can plan for the future in the next pre-season ... you can see he's still got it, is working so hard but was a bit of a lone wolf on the weekend.
"It's disappointing to see that he's not going to go out with all the bells and whistles he deserves but I hope he goes out playing his best footy."
The 12th-placed Titans (4-9) have recently signed a long-term deal to play their home games at Robina's Cbus Super Stadium, which effectively locks in the venue for the final-round clash.
The club is in talks with the Cowboys to maximise the hype around Thurston's potential farewell and properly recognise his career on game day, in what is otherwise on track to be a stale, low-stakes affair.
© AAP 2018