Greg Inglis will captain the Indigenous All Stars in the 2016 NRL Harvey Norman All Stars match in Brisbane next month following the withdrawal of Johnathan Thurston.
Inglis said he was humbled to be asked to captain the side this year.
“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.
“Whilst it’s unfortunate that JT won’t be out there with us, I fully understand his decision to add the World Club Challenge to his resume.”
Thurston, who has been one of the biggest supporters of the All Stars concept, is required by the Cowboys to play in the World Club Series in the United Kingdom a week after the All Stars match.
He advised the NRL that he wants to ensure he is fit and fresh for the World Club championship – one of the few goals he is yet to achieve in Rugby League.
NRL General Manager of Community, Culture and Diversity, Mark Deweerd said Thurston has played a key role in the success of the All Stars matches and everyone in the Rugby League community accepts his decision.
“While we will miss him in Brisbane this year, we totally understand that he wants to help the Cowboys become the world champion club side,” he said.
Thurston said he regretted missing the All Stars match but would be cheering the reigning champion Indigenous All Stars team from the sidelines.
“I will always have great affection for the All Stars match and I am already aiming to be back for next year’s game,” he said.
“But this is a unique opportunity to win the World Club series and I want to do all I can to help the Cowboys achieve that goal.”
The Indigenous All Stars will take on a World All Stars team at Suncorp Stadium on 13 February.