IN what is expected to be his last season of rugby league, Johnathan Thurston will play in Darwin.
The NT News can reveal the Parramatta Eels will face Thurston’s North Queensland Cowboys at TIO Stadium in Round 14 next season.
The future immortal returned from a 63-day injury lay-off in the corresponding Top End fixture this year, scoring a try and setting up three others in a 32-6 demolition of Parramatta.
Set for Saturday, June 9 at 7pm, another bumper crowd is tipped after more than 12,000 people rolled through the Marrara gates this year.
The Cowboys defied the odds in 2017, making it to the grand final from eighth position after losing Thurston to a shoulder injury halfway through the season.
The Eels made the finals for the first time since 2009 and will be shooting for a premiership under Brad Arthur next year.
Both teams clashed during 2017 finals with the Cowboys eliminating the Eels 24-16.
Minister for Tourism and Culture Lauren Moss said the NT Government hoped to replicate the success of this year’s NRL event.
“With the Eels making the finals and the Cowboys making the grand final this year, we’re expecting a blockbuster clash when they play in Darwin. Hundreds of NRL fans will visit town and a huge audience will watch on TV,” she said.
A new agreement between the government and Parramatta is expected soon after the initial four-year contract recently expired. Meanwhile, Darwin’s Rugby League World Cup quarter-final is less than a month away.
Australia will feature at Marrara if they finish top of Pool A, which includes England, France and Lebanon.
They will play the second ranked team from Pool B, likely to be Tonga, who have recently added the two most destructive forwards in the game, Jason Taumalolo and Andrew Fifita, to their squad.