Star power: Thurston, Taumalolo to light up Carrington as Cowboys locked in

CHAMPION OF THE GAME: Johnathon Thurston, fitness permitting, will light up Bathurst's Carrington Park in May next year, when his Cowboys play Penrith. Photo: JEFFREY CHAN
CHAMPION OF THE GAME: Johnathon Thurston, fitness permitting, will light up Bathurst's Carrington Park in May next year, when his Cowboys play Penrith. Photo: JEFFREY CHAN

Johnathon Thurston, Jason Taumalolo, Michael Morgan, Coen Hess and Matt Scott, turning out at Bathurst’s Carrington Park.

Mouth-watering isn’t it?

Fitness permitting, that’s exactly what punters can look forward to come May next year after Thursday’s NRL draw release revealed the North Queensland Cowboys will travel south to face the Penrith Panthers in Bathurst in round nine.

Bathurst is one of seven regional centres that will host competition games next season and the Panthers-Cowboys blockbuster is the fifth edition of Penrith’s unprecedented commitment to the city, which sees the side host a clash there every year until 2028.

While the Canberra Raiders have fronted against Penrith the last two years, the value of having the 2015 premiers and 2017 runners-up in the western region is undeniably a gigantic scoop.

“It doesn’t get much better than that,” NRL game development manager Dave Elvy, a legend of the sport in this region, enthused.

“It’s huge for the town to have the team that has played in two of the last three grand finals.”

With four Dally M Medals in tow, Thurston is the obvious drawcard and Elvy said he, and everyone else, will be desperately hoping the champion halfback is fit.

“Fingers crossed he’ll play,” Elvy said.

“If he doesn’t play I’m sure he’ll travel regardless. That’ll be huge news for the town and the area.”

The clash is marked down for Friday, May 4, that night time slot will add a new dynamic.

“Being a Friday night, hopefully a great crowd can come along and enjoy the footy and relax for the weekend,” he said.

GIANT DRAWCARD: 2016 Dally M medalist Jason Taumalolo is another of the Cowboys' superstars who will be on show in Bathurst. Photo: NRL IMAGERY

GIANT DRAWCARD: 2016 Dally M medalist Jason Taumalolo is another of the Cowboys' superstars who will be on show in Bathurst. Photo: NRL IMAGERY

“It’s a great opportunity for kids to see their stars, who otherwise can’t travel. I know plenty that can’t travel and see games.

“It would be great to see a great crowd, to see Carrington Park chockers.” 

The Cowboys will be the focus of many in the short-term, but Elvy said the Panthers must be given plenty of credit for their continued commitment to the area.

“They’re here for another 11 years,” he said.

“The Panthers do plenty of work in the region that goes unnoticed. They’ve invested massive time in the Western Region.

“Hopefully the Panthers’ blueprint to bring games to country areas is something that other NRL teams pick up on.”

Games have also be locked in at Mudgee, Tamworth, Gosford, Gladstone, Cairns and Toowoomba. 

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