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Rivalry for Nines captaincy role heats up

13 January, 2017

Rivalry for Nines captaincy role heats up between Cowboys stars Johnathan Thurston and Gavin Cooper

He’s rated by many as the greatest NRL player of all time and he has led his club for the best part of a decade, however playmaker Johnathan Thurston won’t necessarily have a ‘C’ beside his name when he lines up for the Cowboys at the Downer NRL Auckland Nines in February.
Back rower Gavin Cooper has traditionally led the Cowboys in Auckland – and he’s done the job pretty darn well. The rampaging Cooper was named in the ‘team of the tournament’ as he captained the Cowboys to the inaugural 2014 Nines title.

“He’s been the captain of the Nines team for the last few years so we’ll have to wait and see,” says Thurston, who has captained the club’s NRL side since 2007 and led it to its maiden NRL premiership in 2015.
“He reminds me and the rest of the playing group all the time that he was the first captain to bring a trophy to the Cowboys. So we might have to paper-scissors-rock off to see who captains the team at the Nines,” Thurston quipped.

Rivalry for this coveted position will likely be discussed next week with Thurston due to resume training with the Cowboys squad on Monday. Thurston has been working hard on his fitness since the start of the year to ensure he is up to rigours of the NRL Nines at Eden Park on February 4 and 5.

“I’ve been working on my fitness since the New Year making sure I’m up to scratch so the body is in good nick and I can play [in Auckland],” says the Cowboys playmaker.
Having previously sat out the Nines due to his heavy commitments, Thurston once again committed he would be playing at the 2017 tournament and said it was great to have the chance to play in Auckland.

“It doesn’t matter who you talk to, all the boys really enjoy the (Nines) concept. It’s a fun weekend. Being on the sidelines last year you could feel the atmosphere. It’s exciting – the fans really get behind it and make it what it is.
“From all the reports you hear the boys have a lot of fun. Whoever you talk to from a lot of clubs, they always enjoy the weekend. It’s the first time I’ll be a part of it so I am looking forward to it.”

With Thurston in the line-up the Cowboys can be expected to have plenty of tricks up their sleeve, however adherence to the game’s fundamentals would be the ultimate key to success, Thurston believes.
“We’ll be working on a few things. It will be my first time playing so I’m not exactly sure what to expect, but it’s obviously an open style sort of game so hopefully we can turn around a little bit of ruck speed and play off the back of that.
“The basic fundamentals of rugby league still need to be applied – a good kicking game, field position and generating a bit of ruck speed and go forward - and if you can do that you’ll be pretty successful.”

Thurston to leave the dabbing to Shaun Johnson
It started with a video from rappers Migos and quickly spread into the world of professional sports thanks to Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Shaun Johnson busted it out at the 2016 NRL Nines and of, late, it has even caused a stir in the world of test cricket thanks to Usman Kwaja’s efforts. But don’t expect legendary Cowboys playmaker Johnathan Thurston to be breaking out a dab when he makes his first appearance at the NRL Nines over Waitangi Weekend.

“I haven’t got too many thoughts on try celebrations because I don’t normally score any,” Thurston said. “I’ll have to have a chat with a few of the boys and see if we can come up with a celebration!”
And he’d definitely leave the dabbing to Johnson, he said.

“Shaun’s that type of player. The game suits his style and he crosses the line very often in this format so he’d better come up with a few celebrations for the crowd.”
Tickets to the Downer NRL Auckland Nines can be purchased at Ticketek

CORPORATE HOSPITALITY PACKAGES: Contact Donna Churton. Phone: + 64 309-2400 or +64 27 545-5353 Email:



All 16 NRL clubs together in Auckland
Featuring 288+ star players
48 Australian internationals; 44 Kiwi test players; 45 State of Origin stars; 68 Pacific Nation reps have appeared at the NRL Auckland Nines so far
31 action packed games
9 players per team, 9 minute halves
NZ $2.6 million dollars + in prize money


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