Retiring Queensland Maroons representatives Johnathan Thurston and Sam Thaiday both play pivotal roles in helping their teams to success on the field, but they are also being recognised for another – more important – role off the field; being a good dad.
The award showcases the contribution Australia's sporting elite make to their families both on and off the field.
Now in its tenth year, the Philips Sports Dad of the Year will highlight 10 elite athletes across a broad range of sports, giving insights into how they juggle fatherhood with their sporting commitments.
This year's nominated Sports Dads will be profiled on sportsdads.com.au which will include questions and answers from the players about their families, as well as comments from the athletes' family.
All voters have the opportunity to win special prizes for their own father this Father's Day, with the winning Philips Sports Dad of the Year receiving $5000 to donate to their charity of choice.
Leading the charge this year are the man regarded as a future League Immortal our very own Johnathan Thurston and Broncos champion Sam Thaiday.
Other rugby league stars to feature are James Maloney (Panthers), David Klemmer (Bulldogs), Paul Gallen (Cronulla), Tigers League wizard Benji Marshall and one of South Sydney’s trio of Burgess giants George Burgess.
The NRL stars will be joined by AFL champions Josh Kennedy, a Swans premiership winner and the man who lead Richmond to last year’s AFL premiership Trent Cotchin. Wallaby scrum half, the silky Will Genia, rounds out the field.
Vote now at sportsdads.com.au
Voting closes tomorrow (Tuesday, August 28) and the Philips Sports Dad of the Year winner will be announced on Father's Day (this Sunday, September 2).
When you talk modern day superstars of rugby league, Thurston’s name is invariably at the top of the list. The man regarded simply as JT is now in the final year of his career, but he has put together a resume equal to the greats of the game in any era. The Cowboys and Queensland star has won two premierships, four Dally M Player of the Year titles, three Golden Boot awards as the game’s best player, the 2015 Clive Churchill Medal as he led the Cowboys to the premiership, five man of the match awards in Origin from a record 36 games in succession. In all, JT has played 37 Origins and 39 Tests for the Kangaroos.
Through it all, his family have shared his achievements and JT is looking forward to spending time with his girls in retirement; Frankie Louise (5), Charlie Grace (3), Lillie Rose (1).
“I love being a dad,” he said. “There is nothing more important to me than being the best husband and father I can be. I try to be as active and involved in the girls’ lives as I can when I’m home.” His wife Sam went onto say “He is smitten with the girls and totally devoted to them. He is hands on and wants to be involved in whatever they’re doing, which is one of the many reasons why he is such a great dad.”
How hard is it spending time away from the girls during the season? It’s really hard, especially now the girls are old enough to understand and get upset when I leave. But it’s almost worth it from all the cuddles I get when I arrive home! – Johnathan
What’s your favourite activity with the girls? I try to be as active as I can in their lives. I take them ice skating, to hockey, to gymnastics … all their little activities! But my favourite would probably be taking them for a bike ride. – Johnathan
Are you able to get involved in the kids’ school or community sport? Yeah, I try to get to all of Frankie’s school events and take her to as many of her sporting events as possible. I will probably get more involved once I retire from football. I’d love to coach one of their teams one day. – Johnathan
How do you find the nappy changes? I’m an expert! It’s not my favourite thing in the world but I do it! – Johnathan
I guess you've seen your partner in a whole new light? She's amazing; she runs our household, knows all of our schedules and makes sure everyone is well loved and cared for. Mums are amazing! – Johnathan
What's been the toughest thing to adjust to? The early mornings. There is no more sleeping in past 6am! – Johnathan
What is his best asset as a father? That would be his easy going and fun loving nature. - Sam
How hard is it when he has to be away from home for so long? We’re used to it. It’s part of his job and he gets to be home so much more during the week so it pays off. I found it tougher during the rep season when he was away for weeks at a time. – Sam
What does he do to help at home? He does it all! If he is home, he wants to be the one to feed the girls, bath them and put them to bed! – Sam
A 300-game veteran with the Brisbane Broncos and mainstay of the Queensland Maroons and Kangaroos for more than a decade, Thaiday has proven himself to be one of the NRL’s most feared players for more than a decade. Recently, he announced this season would be his last in a glittering career that has earned him 29 caps for the all-conquering Queensland Maroons, 32 Test jerseys for the Kangaroos and countless fans across the country for his larrikin nature and sense of humour away from the field. Sam’s personality is such that he won’t be lost to the game post retirement, as he is already carving out a media career.
One thing retirement will enable him to do is spend time with his two girls; Gracie (5) and Ellsie (3). And big Sam can’t wait!
“The girls have come along later in my football career and have definitely become a focus of drive in my football life … they’re a huge inspiration,” Sam said. “I love when they come to games and, when we can, Rachel brings them interstate as well. The girls sometimes come onto the field and I cherish those moments, having them walk hand in hand and stroll around with me. In their eyes, it’s just daddy’s job at the end of the day and they just want you back home.”
His wife Rachel went onto say “Sam’s best asset as a father is his strength and loyalty. He loves his girls to the moon and back and he is pretty hilarious … which makes things always entertaining!”
How tough is spending so much time away from the girls during the season? It’s always hard being away from family, but my family has always been very supportive of my career and at the end of the day, what I’m doing is all for them … for my kids’ future. It is hard missing those milestones and little moments. But thank God for Facetime and camera phones! – Sam
Tell us about the game day routine? The girls let me have a sleep in on game days. When the girls were born they become part of the routine. We do our morning walk to the local café with the girls on their scooters and I try to eat my breakfast before my three-year-old Ellsie steals all my bacon! – Sam
How much has life changed since they were born? It’s changed big time! You learn you have to balance it all – footy, family and all. It makes it so much harder to go away as well. They’re little and they don’t understand. They don’t know you have a big game and they share all the sicknesses from day care and school. But I wouldn’t change anything for the world. Life becomes about them. – Sam
What’s your daily family routine like? Bath time is around 5.30 and then, after dinner, we take one girl each for foot massage, oil time, brushing teeth time and then we read a book! On the weekend we do pancakes, bike rides, playing in the park, creek adventures, gardening. I also play the tea lady in the cubby house! – Sam
It really sounds like you enjoy being a dad? It’s definitely hard work but it’s the most rewarding thing you can do. They look at you like you’re the best thing ever and a hero in their eyes. They make me laugh too, my little girls. – Sam
What’s your favourite activity with the girls? Using our imagination, putting on shows, dancing to Aladdin and The Greatest Showman. – Sam
Best part of the day with the girls? Coming home to them and dinner time. We always sit around the dinner table and tell each other about the best part of our day and what we’re looking forward to the next day. It teaches them about gratitude and I love the little stories the girls bring home from school. We also have joke time around the table, but you’ve got to fake laugh sometimes! – Sam
Favourite holiday destination? The Sunshine Coast. We love spending time together with the kids on the beach, just in the surf, building sand castle, heading out to breakfast. We have some close friends up there and love hanging out at Peregian. We’ve also loved Tasmania and have been to Abu Dhabi to visit Rachel’s brother. – Sam
What makes Sam such a great father? His patience and loyalty. He would give you the shirt off his back and is so supportive of everything the girls do. He will get dressed up in full Moana outfit just to be part of it all! – Rachel
What makes your dad so great? He gives me to the best hugs and I love it when he dances with me. – Gracie
What is the best thing dad does for you? He hugs me and I know I’m mummy’s girl, but I want to be daddy’s girl too! – Gracie