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Johnathan Thurston describes isolation of long-term injury in wake of Greg Inglis's issues

ABC Grandstand logoABC Grandstand 19/05/2017

Johnathan Thurston of the Cowboys looks on during the round 11 NRL match between the Cronulla Sharks and the North Queensland Cowboys on May 18, 2017 in Sydney, Australia. © Jason McCawley/Getty Images Johnathan Thurston of the Cowboys looks on during the round 11 NRL match between the Cronulla Sharks and the North Queensland Cowboys on May 18, 2017 in Sydney, Australia. In the wake of Greg Inglis's mental health issues, Johnathan Thurston has described the loneliness that athletes suffer when they are sidelined for long periods with injury.

Thurston is on the verge of returning to the Cowboys after a lay-off due to a shoulder injury, and said he is expecting to be fit for State of Origin I on May 31.

He told the ABC that being forced to undergo months of rehabilitation, as Inglis currently is for an ACL injury, can be extremely hard to cope with mentally.

Souths and Queensland star Inglis this week checked into a rehabilitation facility where he is undergoing a series of programs and treatments to assist with his mental health.

"It's extremely tough. You're isolated," Thurston said.

"A lot of the times, if you're injured, you're training at 5:30 in the morning. You don't really see the boys when they're training."

"You're spending a lot more time away from home getting physio treatment, seeing doctors.

"And obviously if it's season-ending it's a mental battle for players to come to grips with that."

North Queensland captain Thurston said the entire rugby league community was behind Inglis, who he suggested could become an example for players who are struggling in the future.

"We're all feeling for GI at the moment and I'm just really glad that he's sought help," Thurston said.

Greg Inglis of the Rabbitohs. © Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images Greg Inglis of the Rabbitohs. "Hopefully he gets the help that he needs and we see him come back and be mentally right in his own head.

"He can certainly lead the way in that arena, with players that have season-ending injuries but are battling mental demons as well.

"We saw Darius Boyd do it a couple of years ago, now probably one of the highest-profile boys in the game battling demons as well.

"Hopefully he comes out and can do a lot of work in that space."

Thurston expects to be fit for Origin I

Queensland and Cowboys fans will be pleased to hear Thurston is almost ready to return from his own shoulder injury, which threatened to keep him out of Origin.

"The shoulder is pretty good," he said after sitting out the Cowboys' past five games, including Thursday night's 18-14 loss to the Sharks.

"I was very close for tonight. I would certainly be 100 per cent if we were playing next week.

"With the shoulder you certainly need to take your time and get the strength back into it, because they can be season-ending injuries if it's not right."

The 34-year-old said veteran players had to be especially careful about returning to action too soon, and that he would not play in Origin if it were too great a risk to his season.

"The team will be the focus. If I get into camp and I'm not right, I'll make that decision."

"It's a balancing act at my age. It's about keeping fit and not flogging a dead horse as well," he said.

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