Johnathan Thurston will make his long-awaited Auckland Nines debut this weekend, after North Queensland confirmed his selection today.

Thurston will finally be unleashed at Eden Park, after missing the first three Auckland campaigns, sharing the Nines captaincy reins with Queensland backrower Gavin Cooper.

Thurston spearheads a strong squad, also featuring Dally M Medallist Jason Taumalolo, Kangaroos utility Michael Morgan, Queensland flyer Justin O'Neill, NRL prodigy Kalyn Ponga and Maroons wing contender Kyle Feldt.

New recruits ex-Melbourne playmaker Ben Hampton and former Titans backrower Shane Wright have also been picked.


Backrower Ethan Lowe has been named to make his return after a spinal injury ended his 2016 finals campaign.

"I think the Nines is a great tournament," Cowboys coach Paul Green said. "It's a little bit less pressure and everyone seems to be in a more relaxed mood, from the coaches to the players."

The Cowboys fly out for Auckland on Wednesday. They play pool games against Sydney Roosters, Canberra and South Sydney.

Cowboys' Auckland Nines squad: John Asiata, Javid Bowen, Gavin Cooper (capt), 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.