The NRL All Stars game will be without its brightest light after North Queensland captain Johnathan Thurston confirmed he’ll miss the match.
Thurston has pulled out of the NRL season curtain-raiser to focus on the Cowboys’ World Club Challenge clash with Leeds on February 21.
“I will always have great affection for the All Stars match and I am already aiming to be back for next year’s game,” Thurston said.
“But this is a unique opportunity to win the World Club Challenge and I want to do all I can to help the Cowboys achieve that goal.”
The World Club Challenge is one of the few achievements the Queensland and Australia representative is yet to complete in his stellar career.
The superstar playmaker is also unlikely to feature for the Cowboys in next month’s Nines competition in Auckland, although he will travel with the side.
“I’ll take my boots but I don’t think I’ll play,” Thurston told foxsports.com.au.
“(It’s) more precautionary. The body’s pretty good actually.
“I’m preparing for the season and I don’t want that risk of getting injured.”
South Sydney’s Greg Inglis has been named a Thurston’s replacement as the captain of the Indigenous All Stars team which will take on a World All Stars lineup in Brisbane next month.
“It’s an incredible honour to captain the Indigenous All Stars,” Inglis said.
“It is always a special time for me – not only is the game itself something to remember but the week is always a highlight.”