Photo: Fiona Goodall © nrlphotos.com

North Queensland Toyota Cowboys head coach Paul Green’s 2017 NRL Auckland Nines squad is a blend of youth and experience with the 18-strong playing group heading across the ditch tomorrow.

Led by perennial Nines skipper Gavin Cooper and regular season co-captain Johnathan Thurston, the Cowboys’ Nines unit heads into their fourth campaign having never failed to qualify for the knockout rounds.

“I always said this Nines squad would allow some of the younger guys and newer faces at our club the chance to impress,” Green said.

“The squad’s a good mix of the lesser experienced players with the guys who have played a bit more footy, and who do well in this format.

“I think the Nines is a great tournament. It’s a little bit less pressure and everyone seems to be in a more relaxed mood, from the coaches to the players.”

Thurston will play in his first Auckland Nines and will play alongside Nines stalwart Cooper and a host of regular first graders.

Young flyer Gideon Gela-Mosby will again join the Nines squad after impressing on debut last year, while new recruits Ben Hampton and Shane Wright have also been included.

The Cowboys leave for Auckland on Wednesday and will visit the Mt Albert Rugby League Club on Thursday and attend the official fan day at Aotea Square on Friday.

2017 NRL Auckland Nines 
4-5 February, Eden Park
Tickets: ticketek.co.nz/nines
Draw: nrlaucklandnines.co.nz

Hunua pool draw: Cowboys, Roosters, Raiders, Rabbitohs. 

Cowboys: John Asiata, Javid Bowen, Gavin Cooper (c), Kyle Feldt, Gideon Gela-Mosby, Jake Granville, Ben Hampton, Coen Hess, Shaun Hudson, Corey Jensen, Kane Linnett, Ethan Lowe, Michael Morgan, Justin O’Neill, Kalyn Ponga, Jason Taumalolo, Johnathan Thurston, Shane Wright. Coach: Paul Green.