Backrower Gavin Cooper will skipper a North Queensland squad featuring 13 players from last year’s NRL premiership-winning team at this weekend’s Auckland Nines.
Cooper – who led the Cowboys to the inaugural Nines title in 2014 – leads a strong squad featuring Origin players Michael Morgan and James Tamou, Kiwi international Jason Taumalolo and North Queensland great Matt Bowen.
Veteran fullback Bowen confirmed last week he would come out of retirement to spark North Queensland’s Nines charge.
Cowboys coach Paul Green has granted 33-year-old Bowen one last hurrah in North Queensland colours after returning from a two-year UK stint to take up a community development role at the club.
Green also included Gideon Gela-Mosby who scored a record 39 tries in the Under 20s last season.
The squad features every member of the Cowboys’ title-winning backline except co-captain Johnathan Thurston.
The likes of playmaker Thurston and fellow co-captain Matt Scott will be rested for the World Club Challenge against Leeds in the UK on February 21.
Green also named his squad for Saturday night’s NRL trial against Brisbane in Bundaberg.
Premiership-winning bench forwards Ben Hannant and Scott Bolton and a mix of Cowboys squad members, Queensland Cup and Under 20s players feature in the 19-strong squad.
Cowboys’ Nines squad: Matthew Bowen, Kyle Feldt, Justin O’Neill, Kane Linnett, Antonio Winterstein, Lachlan Coote, Ray Thompson, John Asiata, Jake Granville, James Tamou, Gavin Cooper, Ethan Lowe, Jason Taumalolo, Michael Morgan, Rory Kostjasyn, Coen Hess, Matthew Wright, Gideon Gela-Mosby.
Cowboys’ Bundaberg trial squad: Jahrome Hughes, Linc Port, Mosese Pangai, Shaun Hudson, Jack Creith, Kyle Laybutt, Cooper Bambling, Ben Hannant, Josh Chudleigh, Scott Bolton, Rhyse Martin, Patrick Mago, Ben Spina, Sam Hoare, Braden Uele, Sheldon Powe-Hobbs, Brandon Smith, Patrick Kaufusi, Ty Carucci.