Cowboys name star-studded Nines line-up
RUGBY LEAGUE: Johnathan Thurston will make his first Auckland Nines appearance in a red-hot Cowboys side at this weekend's season-opening tournament.
Thurston was on Tuesday named in a squad that includes a host of North Queensland premiership stars including Jason Taumalolo, Gavin Cooper, Michael Morgan and Justin O'Neill.
Teenage sensation Kalyn Ponga will play in the nine-a-side tournament, as will Ethan Lowe, who will be making his first appearance since suffering a neck injury last year.
The Cowboys won the inaugural Nines tournament in 2014 and have traditionally fielded strong squads in Auckland.
Coach Paul Green has also included NRL regulars Jake Granville, Kyle Feldt and Kane Linnett along with Josh Asiata, Javid Bowen, Coen Hess and flying winger Gideon Gela-Mosby, who starred last year.
"I always said this Nines squad would allow some of the younger guys and newer faces at our club the chance to impress," Green said.
"The squad's a good mix of the lesser-experienced players with the guys who have played a bit more footy, and who do well in this format.
"I think the Nines is a great tournament. It's a little bit less pressure and everyone seems to be in a more relaxed mood, from the coaches to the players."
Recruits Ben Hampton (Melbourne) and Shane Wright (Titans) will pull on a Cowboys jersey for the first time along with Townsville Blackhawks graduate Corey Jensen.
Cooper will again captain the Nines side despite regular season co-captain Thurston being in the squad.
Cowboys: John Asiata, Javid Bowen, Gavin Cooper (c), Kyle Feldt, Gideon Gela-Mosby, Jake Granville, Ben Hampton, Coen Hess, Shaun Hudson, Corey Jensen, Kane Linnett, Ethan Lowe, Michael Morgan, Justin O'Neill, Kalyn Ponga, Jason Taumalolo, Johnathan Thurston, Shane Wright. Coach: Paul Green.