Jonathan Thurston’s final match at Townsville sees the North Queensland Cowboys host the Parramatta Eels on Friday night at 1300SMILES Stadium.
TEAM FORM GUIDE
North Queensland Cowboys
North Queensland Cowboys have been showing some glimpses of how good they could have been in recent weeks. They had two close losses to the Sydney Roosters and Cronulla Sharks in between a victory against strong rivals Brisbane Broncos.
The Parramatta Eels had two strong wins against the Gold Coast Titans and St George Illawarra Dragons. Their momentum was ruined last week when they came up against a depleted Melbourne Storm and lost 20-6.
North Queensland Cowboys
The Cowboys two most important forwards return to the start on squad in Matt Scott and Jason Taumalolo. Scott Bolton and John Asiata return to the bench, pushing Ethan Lowe and Corey Jensen back onto the reserves.
The Parramatta Eels have a major out in inspirational lock Nathan Brown, who suffered a season ending knee injury. The other changes see Kane Evans return to the side at prop. Peni Terepo starts at lock and Tepai Moeroa shifts to the second row. Tim Mannah, Brad Takarangi, and Cameron King are named on the bench. Bevan French and Josh Hoffman have been named in the reserves.
These two teams met back in round 14 at Darwin, where the Parramatta Eels were victorious that night 20-14 in what was their third victory of the season. On that night Jarryd Hayne returned from a long layoff through injury and starred with two tries. This time these two teams meet with vastly improved form behind them and a strong desire to avoid being on the bottom of the ladder heading into the final round.
The Cowboys will be happy to see the return of their senior forwards to the starting side. It’s been an unusual sight to see Scott, McLean, Hess, and Taumalolo playing together but it’s no coincidence that their return to form has come on the back of these players getting more game time. Last week McLean was massive for the Cowboys, laying the platform for his team to play off and scoring a try late in the match the keep the Cowboys in the contest. This week he will have Taumalolo and Scott to help carry some of the load.
The Eels forward pack need to step up themselves and find someone to fill the massive hole left by Nathan Brown. The Eels were impatient last week, often heading out wide without doing the proper work in the middle first. Nathan Brown is a big part of getting their sets moving straight and forward. Not to mention the impact he makes through his defence. Peni Terepo is a handy replacement and Tepai Moeroa has been impressive on the left side but the other forwards need to step up especially in regards to who they are playing against.
Four years ago Hayne and Jonathan Thurston were awarded the top prize in NRL with the Dally M Medal. This Friday night they will be attempting to help their team avoid the wooden spoon in their final match up. Thurston has always been an integral part of the Cowboys game and will be no less instrumental on what will be his final outing at Townsville. His presence in the team and the motivation to put in a good performance for this team will be a driving factor. Hayne has returned to the wing in recent weeks but as always has been given permission to roam and pop up when needed. Two weeks ago he scored a hat trick of tries against the Dragons and had some nice involvements in the game against the Storm. If he can increase his touches in the game then he will go a long way to helping the Eels secure the two points.
This is Jonathan Thurston’s penultimate NRL match and final one at Townsville, expect the atmosphere at the ground to be electric.
SQUADS (optional paragraph)
1. Corey Norman 2. Jarryd Hayne 3. Michael Jennings 4. Clint Gutherson (c) 5. George Jennings 6. Jaeman Salmon 7. Mitch Moses 8. Kane Evans 9. Reed Mahoney 10. Siosaia Vave 11. Marata Niukore 12. Tepai Moeroa 13. Peni Terepo Interchange 14. Cameron King 15. Tim Mannah (c) 16. David Gower 17. Brad Takairangi
North Queensland Cowboys
1. Te Marie Martin 2. Kyle Feldt 3. Justin O’Neill 4. Kane Linnett 5. Gideon Gela-Mosby 6. Jake Clifford 7. Jonathan Thurston (c) 8. Matthew Scott 9. Jake Granville 10. Jordan McLean 11. Gavin Cooper 12. Coen Hess13. Jason Taumalolo Interchange 14. Ben Hampton 15. John Asiata 16. Francis Molo 17. Scott Bolton
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: 24th Friday
Venue: 1300SMILES Stadium
WHO WILL WIN?
The last time the Cowboys played at Townsville it was a high scoring affair and as most bottom of the table matches appear to be heading these days, expect lots of points in this one too. Both teams have a decent attack and the motivation to avoid the wooden spoon will be driving them forth. This will be a great occasion for the Cowboys and their big match players should help them settle into the match. This is one the Cowboys cannot let slip.
Cowboys by 8