North Queensland Toyota Cowboys five-eighth Michael Morgan has been ruled out of tonight’s 2018 NRL season opener against the Cronulla Sharks with an abdominal strain.
The recently re-signed Queensland and Australian representative hurt himself at training and will miss tonight’s match at 1300SMILES Stadium, where Cowboys co-captain Johnathan Thurston will mark twin milestones.
The champion halfback, 34, will play his 271st game for the club tonight, and will surpass Matt Bowen’s record as the most-capped Cowboy, while also hitting the magical 300-game mark in the National Rugby League.
Thurston will be the 30th player in history to play 300 matches in the top flight, just ahead of former Queensland Maroons teammate Billy Slater, who is stuck on 299 after being ruled out of the Melbourne Storm’s opening match of the year against the Bulldogs tomorrow night.
Utility Te Maire Martin will come in off the bench to start at five-eighth for the Sharks match, with Corey Jensen moving into the 17-man team after being initially named as 18th man.
Incumbent fullback Lachlan Coote was earlier this week ruled out of the match with a hamstring complaint with Ben Hampton to start in the No.1 jersey.
Tonight’s match also marks the club debut of prop Jordan McLean, the giant New South Welshman one of the club’s few off-season signings after he came across from the Storm.
Tonight’s match kicks off at 7.05pm and will be followed by a Jessica Mauboy concert on the field as the JT milestone celebrations continue.
Cowboys: 1. Ben Hampton, 2. Kyle Feldt, 3. Justin O'Neill, 4. Javid Bowen, 5. Antonio Winterstein, 14. Te Maire Martin, 7. Johnathan Thurston (c), 8. Matt Scott (c), 9. Jake Granville, 10. Jordan McLean, 11. Gavin Cooper, 12. Ethan Lowe, 13. Jason Taumalolo. Interchange: 15. Coen Hess, 16. Scott Bolton, 17. John Asiata, 18. Corey Jensen.
Sharks: 1. Valentine Holmes, 2. Sosaia Feki, 3. Josh Dugan, 4. Ricky Leutele, 5. Sione Katoa, 6. Matt Moylan, 7. Chad Townsend, 8. Andrew Fifita, 9. Jayden Brailey, 10. Matt Prior, 18. Kurt Capewell, 12. Wade Graham (c), 14. Jayson Bukuya. Interchange: 13. Paul Gallen, 15. James Segeyaro, 16. Ava Seumanufagai, 17. Joseph Paulo.