Australian of the Year Finalist Johnathan Thurston.
Australian of the Year Finalist Johnathan Thurston.

Scientist beats Johnathan Thurston to top honour

RUGBY league legend Johnathan Thurston has missed out on being named Australian of the Year.

Thurston, who was Queensland's finalist, lost out on the national honour to a professor in quantum physics from NSW.

Professor Michelle Yvonne Simmons received the award tonight at a ceremony in the Great Hall of Parliament House in Canberra.

One of the world's top scientists, Professor Simmons has pioneered research that could lead to a quantum leap in computing, with her work helping to develop world-leading technology.

Since emigrating from Britain in 1999, Professor Simmons has transformed the University of NSW quantum physics department into a world leader in advanced computer systems.

In 2012, she and her team created the world's first transistor made from a single atom, along with the world's thinnest wire.

The announcement comes after Thurston said earlier today that the date of Australia Day should be changed.

Mayor Jenny Hill said Thurston was still Queensland's Australian of the Year representative

"I think that's a massive honour for anyone to achieve that," she said.

"And it's not just about his sporting achievements, it's really about the work he's been doing behind the scenes with young people, in particular young men and young indigenous men."

Thurston travelled to Canberra with wife Samantha to attend tonight's award ceremony and the celebrations in the lead-up.

Townsville MP Scott Stewart said it was a great honour to have someone from the city representing Queensland.

Mr Stewart said it was great to have Thurston at the Australian of the Year events as an ambassador for Townsville.

"I can just imagine his laugh ringing out during each of those events," he said.

"I think he would be pretty taken aback by it but really enjoying it as well."

Former Townsville soldier Phillip Thompson was a finalist for Young Australian of the Year, but also missed out, with the award going to star Australian soccer player Samantha Kerr.

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