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Johnathan Thurston and Shaun Johnson will headline a spectacular line-up of rugby league's greatest players at the 2017 Downer NRL Auckland Nines.

The superstar duo are committed to playing in the February 4 and 5 pre-season rugby league showpiece – with tickets on sale from Thursday.

Thurston, who made a cameo appearance at this year's tournament in the Beko Legends Big Kick competition, said he could not wait to take the field alongside his Cowboys teammates in 2017.

"I had a small taste of the NRL Nines this year, and the atmosphere was simply incredible," Thurston said. "I made up my mind right away that I would be back to play in the 2017 tournament – and hopefully lead the Cowboys to another Nines title.

"The guys who played in 2014 when we won it have all said just what an incredible experience that was – and it's something I can't wait to find out for myself."

North Queensland Cowboys coach Paul Green and General Manager Peter Parr confirmed his club would welcome the presence of its premier player and captain.

"Every year he's always put pressure on me, being that attacking style suits his game and I think he'd really flourish," Green said.

"Winning the inaugural tournament, I think the tournament holds a pretty special place in the club's history."

Cowboys General Manager Peter Parr said: "The main reason we've decided to let Johnathan play is that he wants to play.

"He's achieved a lot in the game, he's achieved more than most players have in the game but the one thing he hasn't done is play in this tournament, and he's very keen to play so we've decided to let him do it," Parr said.

Former rugby league legend and Immortal Andrew Johns was excited to learn Thurston will be playing at the 2017 Auckland Nines:

"Everyone will want to turn up and watch Jonathan Thurston play," Johns said. "I sat with him the whole tournament last year. He was so enthusiastic about it and wanted to be a part of it so it goes to show how big the tournament is - the biggest drawcard in rugby league is going to be there putting his skills on." Johns said.