Date: Saturday 1st July
Venue: 1300 Smiles Stadium
1 Lachlan Coote 2 Matthew Wright 3 Justin O’Neill 4 Kane Linnett 5 Antonio Winterstein 6 Michael Morgan 7 Johnathan Thurston (c) 8 Matthew Scott (c) 9 Jake Granville 10 James Tamou 11 Gavin Cooper 12 Ethan Lowe 13 Jason Taumalolo. Interchange: 14 Rory Kostjasyn 15 John Asiata 16 Scott Bolton 17 Ben Hannant
1 Jack Wighton 2 Edrick Lee 3 Jarrod Croker (c) 4 Joseph Leilua 5 Jordan Rapana 6 Blake Austin 7 Josh McCrone 8 Paul Vaughan 9 Josh Hodgson 10 David Shillington 11 Josh Papalii 12 Iosia Soliola 13 Shaun Fensom. Interchange: 14 Kurt Baptiste 15 Jarrad Kennedy 16 Frank-Paul Nuuausala 17 Shannon Boyd
Last 10 Meetings:
Raiders 20-21 Cowboys – Round 15, 2015
Raiders 42-12 Cowboys – Round 11, 2014
Cowboys 28-22 Raiders – Round 1, 2014
Raiders 26-18 Cowboys – Round 17, 2013
Cowboys 30-12 Raiders – Round 7, 2013
Cowboys 40-18 Raiders – Round 16, 2012
Raiders 6-22 Cowboys – Round 5, 2012
Raiders 24-40 Cowboys – Round 13, 2011
Cowboys 26-18 Raiders – Round 6, 2011
Raiders 48-4 Cowboys – Round 25, 2010
North Queensland Cowboys will be looking to strengthen their claim for a first ever Minor Premiership as they welcome Canberra Raiders to the 1300 Smiles Stadium.
They showed their Premiership credentials to blow away Parramatta Eels with five converted tries in 20 minutes last week, as they eased to a 46-4 victory.
With four wins in their last five the Cowboys sit just two points off the league leaders Brisbane Broncos and will be looking to try and hit the summit this week.
Canberra Raiders will be out to prove they are capable of making the eight and their chances were boosted by their 34-24 victory over Penrith Panthers last weekend.
Of the 10 games that they have played against top eight sides though the Raiders have won just two and if they don’t improve that form in the run-in they could miss out on a huge chance to make the play-offs.
It is no secret that Thurston’s influence has been massive for the Cowboys this season and not many people would argue with JT being branded the best player in the world at the moment.
Keeping him quiet is key if the Raiders are to take anything from this game however they know first-hand that is easier said than done, as it was his 80th minute field goal that was the difference when the two met in Round 15 this year.
In Blake Austin though the Green Machine have a game winner of their own, and his running game could cause all kinds of problems for the Queensland side’s defence. If he turns it on we could have a brilliant game on our hands. His opposite number Michael Morgan possesses those qualities himself though and we could have an exciting battle on our hands between the two half-backs.
Up front there is a lot of size in both camps and they don’t come much bigger than Jason Taumalolo, if the Cowboys’ loose forward is allowed to run riot then it could be a long evening for the visitors. Canberra will be hoping the likes of Josh Papalii, David Shillington and Shaun Fensom can keep him quiet.
Prediction: Canberra’s form against the top eight this season is a worry although on their day they can beat most, if not all, of the teams in the NRL. North Queensland Cowboys have been brilliant of late though and led by JT they should pile pressure on the Broncos at the top. Cowboys by 16.