Lewis out of NRL opener with injury

Milestone celebrations have been called off for at least one NRL great ahead of North Queensland's season opener against Cronulla in Townsville on Friday night.

While the stadium is expected to be packed for Cowboys co-captain Johnathan Thurston's 300th NRL game, Sharks veteran back-rower Luke Lewis has been forced to postpone his own celebration after being ruled out with an ankle injury.

Lewis - already a member of the NRL's elite 300 game club - was primed to toast his 100th match for Cronulla in Townsville.

However, the 307-game forward has been forced to abandon the landmark after damaging his ankle at the captain's run in Townsville on Thursday.

It is unclear how long Lewis - who played 208 matches for Penrith over 12 seasons - will be sidelined.

Reserve Jayson Bukuya - ahead of his 150th game - is set to replace the veteran against North Queensland with Kurt Capewell poised to move onto the bench.

It was a cruel blow for 2016 Clive Churchill Medallist Lewis who had shown no signs of slowing down ahead of his 18th NRL season.

"At the moment, I feel younger than I did two years ago," Lewis told Sportingnews.com website before the clash.

"If I get to round 10 and I feel the way I feel now, I'll definitely be asking if they'd be interested in keeping me on."

Meanwhile, winger Sione Katoa will make his NRL debut for the Sharks ahead of Aaron Gray after scoring 43 tries in 49 Under 20s matches, including 24 in 26 matches in 2017.

Prized recruits Matt Moylan and Josh Dugan will make their Sharks debut at five-eighth and centre respectively in Townsville.

"We have had a look at them and what they do but they have a couple of new players who are key players like Moylan and Dugan," Cowboys coach Paul Green said.

"The other guys we kind of know what to expect, we have come up against them enough times."

Cronulla No.1 Valentine Holmes said they were keen to extend the Sharks' away run of 10 wins in 12 games last year.

"We know they will come out fiery for them to win for him (Thurston) but we are just going out there like it is another game," Holmes said.

Sharks coach Shane Flanagan added: "We expect a hard tussle.

"You have to be prepared to go to the last minute to win it - if we have to do that we will do it."

© AAP 2018