North Queensland’s three Rugby League World Cup grand finalists have retained their places in Australia’s squad for the one-off Test match against New Zealand on Friday night.
Two-time Golden Boot winner as international rugby league’s player of the year, Johnathan Thurston, will again wear the No.6 jersey at Allianz Stadium in his 31st match for the Kangaroos.
The 31-year-old won four man-of-the-match awards at the 2013 World Cup and also took over top spot from Michael Cronin on the list of highest point-scorers for his country during Australia’s 34-2 victory against the Kiwis at Old Trafford.
Thurston will be joined in the Australian lineup by fellow NQ co-captain Matt Scott, who will play his 16th Test, and James Tamou, who will line up for his 10th game for Australia.
All three Cowboys have been named in the starting 13.
Brent Tate missed out on a recall even though the Kangaroos have lost their World Cup final centre Jarryd Hayne to a shoulder injury sustained in Saturday night’s NQ v Parramatta match at 1300SMILES Stadium.
Canterbury’s Josh Morris was selected ahead of Tate.
Form and injuries have played a part in the Kiwis selection, with only five players – captain Simon Mannering, winger Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, centre Dean Whare, halfback Shaun Johnson, and props Sam Moa and Jesse Bromwich – returning from the side that lost to the Kangaroos in last year's World Cup final.
On the other side of the ledger, fullback/winger Peta Hiku, five-eighth Isaac John, utility Ben Henry, hooker Siliva Havili, and props Martin Taupau and Kenny Bromwich will join the national team for the first time.
Last week, it was announced that Cowboys forward Ashton Sims would captain Fiji for the first time in their Four Nations qualifier against Samoa at Penrith on Saturday night, while a hamstring injury cost Antonio Winterstein his place in the Samoan lineup.
Ashton’s brother Tariq was named in the Country Origin squad for the third straight season, giving him another chance to impress the NSW State of Origin selectors.
Tariq will wear the No.17 jersey against City Origin in Dubbo on Sunday.
KANGAROOS: Billy Slater (Melbourne Storm) Darius Boyd (Newcastle Knights); Greg Inglis (South Sydney Rabbitohs); Josh Morris (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs); Brett Morris (St George Illawarra Dragons); Johnathan Thurston (North Queensland Cowboys); Cooper Cronk (Melbourne Storm); Matt Scott (North Queensland Cowboys); Cameron Smith (c) (Melbourne Storm); James Tamou (North Queensland Cowboys); Greg Bird (Gold Coast Titans); Sam Thaiday (Brisbane Broncos); Paul Gallen (Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks). Interchange: Daly Cherry-Evans (Manly Warringah Sea Eagles), Boyd Cordner (Sydney Roosters), Nate Myles (Gold Coast Titans), Corey Parker (Brisbane Broncos). 18th man Matt Gillett (Brisbane Broncos).
KIWIS: Gerard Beale, (St George-Illawarra Dragons), Adam Blair (Wests Tigers), Jesse Bromwich (Melbourne Storm), Kenneath Bromwich (Melbourne Storm), Greg Eastwood (Canterbury Bulldogs), Tohu Harris (Melbourne Storm), Siliva Havili (NZ Warriors), Ben Henry (NZ Warriors), Peta Hiku (Manly Sea Eagles), Isaac John (Penrith Panthers), Shaun Johnson (NZ Warriors), Simon Mannering (NZ Warriors), Sam Moa (Sydney Roosters), Jason Nightingale (St George-Illawarra Dragons), Kevin Proctor (Melbourne Storm), Martin Taupau (Wests Tigers), Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (Sydney Roosters), Dean Whare (Penrith Panthers)