An emotional Preston Campbell today played a role in handing one of the biggest honours in Rugby League to Cowboys halfback Johnathan Thurston who will take on the captaincy for the 2011 Learn. Earn. Legend! Indigenous All Stars in the upcoming Harvey Norman Rugby League All Stars game.

Preston, whose leadership in the inaugural game inspired people from around the country, was the most reluctant of withdrawals today as a hamstring injury forced him out of next Saturday’s match.

Despite his passion for the All Stars, Campbell is simply unable to play and today endorsed the ARL Indigenous Council’s decision to nominate Thurston as the man to lead the Indigenous All Stars on the eve of the third anniversary of the National Apology to the Stolen Generations.

“It’s disappointing to miss out, particularly because it’s such a big game for me,” Campbell said.

“But I’m only about 80 per cent fit at the moment and because it’s such a significant game for a lot of people, it’s only fair to have the strongest team out there on the field.

“The positive thing is that I’ll still be involved in all the great community activities that happen off the field during All Stars week.’’

Newly-appointed Indigenous All Stars captain Johnathan Thurston said: “I feel honoured to be given this job.

“Taking on the role of captain in a side that represents my people is very special and I’ll be doing everything I can to live up to the high standard that Preston has set as the inaugural captain of the side last year.”

Parramatta Eels hooker Anthony Mitchell will replace Campbell in the squad while Warriors utility Joel Moon has been called into the squad for Broncos forward Sam Thaiday who was ruled out last week.

“We are obviously disappointed that Preston has been ruled out of the game, he is a fantastic leader and a well-respected member of the team,” Indigenous All Stars coach Laurie Daley said today.

“Preston will still join the team in camp and is committed to playing an active role in our preparations and community events during the week.

“This is a well-deserved opportunity for Johnathan.

“He is passionate about the All Stars concept and the Indigenous All Stars team and is definitely up to the task of leading them in this historic match.