Johnathan Thurston says "I'll pack my boots" for Sunday's grand final, but North Queensland's best chance of a miracle injury comeback resides with teammate Matt Scott.
Thurston is resigned to missing the decider against Melbourne, but his presence around the team has been a huge boost during their giant-killing run. The Immortal-in-waiting has spent enough time in the coach's box lately to realise it's not a gig for him.
"Hell no. No chance," Thurston said. "You have got to be a special breed of person to be a head coach. I'm enjoying the role I'm playing now, it's been able to put my mind into another direction. The club comes first and I'm enjoying that role while I'm injured."
The Cowboys' run to the biggest game of the year has surprised everyone but themselves.
"This playing group has put this club in this position. I see it day in, day out, what they do," Thurston said. "It's come as no surprise to me."
North Queensland coach Paul Green remained coy on the prospect of Scott returning after more than six months on the sidelines after almost becoming a shock inclusion against the Roosters. Thurston, however, has come to terms with the fact he won't be participating.
"That's what happens in footy. I'm not the only one who has had to sit out a grand final," he said.
"Obviously Smithy [Cameron Smith] sat out through suspension. There are other players who have missed grand finals. My focus is different now. I'm making sure I'm putting my energy into the right areas to get the boys best prepared for next week."
Michael Morgan has stepped up in Thurston's absence, to the point where he is arguably the NRL's form player. Thurston described his halves partner as "the future of the club".
"That's one lad in the team I'm really excited about and really proud of what he's been able to do," he said. "He's been able to play his own game and not try to fill my shoes.
"That's what I've always been speaking to him about, stamp your authority on the team and play your role. His game has gone to another level. He's in career-best form."
Thurston said it was more nerve-racking watching the action from the sidelines than conducting it when the game is on the line.
"Definitely sitting on the sideline [is harder]," he said. "I wasn't too bad [during the Roosters game]. Last week I was more nervous. I was really calm about it and relaxed. The boys had a good week at training and have been playing good footy. It was no surprise."
Thurston has found his own ways to contribute during his lay-off. Footage of him cleaning the dressing rooms and tending to his teammates has been hailed as another example of his selflessness.
"I've been trying to get in there with a spring in my step, talk to the boys a lot, go to meetings, make sure I've still got a voice there. It's been good," he said.
While there will be a week of intrigue about whether Scott will play, Thurston isn't expected to be joining him. When asked if he was any chance of a miracle comeback, he ended the interview with: "I'll pack my boots."
The story Thurston to pack boots for grand final ... but return far-fetched first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.