What Johnathan Thurston wants, he usually gets.
But North Queensland NRL coach Paul Green admitted he had to pull rank and again deny Thurston an Auckland Nines debut with the World Club Challenge (WCC) looming.
There is little four-time Dally M Medallist Thurston hasn’t achieved after inspiring the Cowboys’ drought-breaking premiership win last year.
However, Green said Thurston would have to bide his time for a Nines debut despite admitting his playmaker would have loved to have been let loose in Auckland.
Thurston has been put in cotton wool for their WCC clash with English champions Leeds in the UK on February 21, along with fellow co-captain Matt Scott.
Thurston is the only member of the Cowboys’ premiership-winning backline who will not be present in Auckland.
Gavin Cooper will skipper a Cowboys Nines squad featuring comeback king Matt Bowen and 13 members of their title-winning side.
The writing was on the wall when Thurston pulled out of the Indigenous All Stars side to concentrate on the WCC.
But Thurston had left the Nines door open, saying he would travel to Auckland “for a look” but was unsure if he would play.
Green admitted he had to make a final call.
“When we looked at his pre-season … we decided it probably wasn’t the right thing to do to let him loose out there,” he said.
“I am sure he would probably want to play but it was not to be.
“He is pretty focused on that WCC.
“It is something he hasn’t achieved yet.
“He withdrew from the All Stars which is a big thing. I know that game is important to him.”
However, Green had no problem picking Lachlan Coote despite the fullback’s horror Nines history.
Coote lasted just seven minutes on Cowboys debut at the 2014 Nines, suffering a season-ending knee injury.
He missed last year’s Nines after losing his passport.
“I was going to pick him last year but I reckon he buried his passport in the backyard or his dog chewed his passport and he couldn’t get one,” Green laughed.
“But people are going to have to stop talking about Cootey and his injuries.
“He had a full year for us last year, had a great season, he has to get past it but (I believe) he will be great in that format.”
Cooper led the Cowboys to the inaugural Nines title in 2014.
Veteran fullback Bowen confirmed last week he would come out of retirement for the Nines.
Green has granted 33-year-old Bowen one last hurrah after his return from a two-year UK stint to take up a Cowboys development role.