Johnathan Thurston says the circus sure to surround his final NRL season won't distract him and his North Queensland teammates from the task at hand.
North Queensland Cowboys playmaker Johnathan Thurston.
The 36-year-old will retire this year as one of rugby league's greats, with his formidable Cowboys squad strong contenders for the premiership.
The playmaker has shed the media commitments that consumed him during a long injury lay-off last season and says it is all about the football as he chases a second title at the Townsville-based club.
"I get pasted by the boys for being too old, but this (impending retirement) won't affect us," he told AAP.
"The coaching staff are the same - nobody's getting ahead of themselves or getting off track from what we want to achieve."
Thurston was a regular on Channel Nine's rugby league coverage as he recovered from June shoulder surgery that saw him miss the State of Origin decider, the Rugby League World Cup and the Cowboys' surprise run to the NRL grand final.
While TV work is something he wanted to return to post-career, the five-eighth is happy just being a rugby league player again.
"It was nice to do a bit of that stuff but this is my job, to play rugby league and my focus is completely on football again now," he said.
"The boys did extremely well to get into the final but you looked around (after the loss) and saw how shattered they were ... there's a lot to play for this year."
Time away from the game last season also allowed Thurston to expand his work in the community, something he will continue doing while he plays out his final season.
For the sixth consecutive year, Thurston will act as the Queensland Reconciliation Awards ambassador, an initiative that rewards individuals, businesses and organisations for encouraging reconciliation.
His own off-field efforts have been noted, Thurston awarded the Australian Human Rights Commission's medal in December in recognition of his ongoing commitment to improving the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
Thurston will continue to use those experiences as inspiration on the field.
"When I play I'm representing my family and region but also my culture," he said.
"That's the power of sport and I'm aware of what it can do because I've seen so many positive examples of it over the years."