Cormac Pearson previews this Friday night’s headliner as the out of form Cowboys take on the red hot Melbourne Storm in Townsville.
TEAM FORM GUIDE
North Queensland Cowboys
Coming into their third consecutive game at 1300SMILES Stadium it has been all frowns for the Cowboys and their fans. Another weekend filled with errors and soft defence has many doubting the side in 2019. Errors have been the main problem as the Cowboys have struggled to apply pressure. The men from the north will have to pull it together to take on the leaders in the Melbourne Storm.
The undefeated Storm have charged into the 2019 season with a vengeance, winning convincingly in all but last week against a passionate Bulldogs outfit. The loss of Billy Slater has so far been catered for and they will certainly be looking to continue this form in Queensland. It is rare the Storm play two average games in a row, so the Cowboys will have to be at their best.
North Queensland Cowboys
Paul Green has kept a similar side after last week’s loss, with only one in-and-out change as Javid Bowen makes way for young centre Enari Tuala. Ben Hampton will shift to the wing and Tuala will take Hampton’s spot at centre. This weekend celebrates Jordan Kahu’s 100th NRL game as he lines up in the centres.
Cowboys; 21-Man Squad: 1. Te Maire Martin 2. Nene Macdonald 3. Jordan Kahu 4. Enari Tuala 5. Ben Hampton 6. Jake Clifford 7. Michael Morgan 8. Matt Scott 9. Jake Granville 10. Jordan McLean 11. Gavin Cooper 12. Coen Hess 13. Josh McGuire 14. John Asiata 15. Corey Jensen 16. Mitchell Dunn 17. Francis Molo 18. Shane Wright 19. Justin O’Neill 20. Kurt Baptiste 21. Peter Hola
The Melbourne Storm’s attack will be boosted with the return of ‘The Fox’ (Josh Addo-Carr) after a week off for personal reasons. Suliasi Vunivalu will miss the game with a suspension as Marion Seve will move from the bench to the wing and Will Chambers shuffles back into the centres.
Melbourne’s 21-Man Squad: 1. Jahrome Hughes 2. Marion Seve 3. Will Chambers 4. Curtis Scott 5. Josh Addo-Carr 6. Cameron Munster 7. Brodie Croft 8. Jesse Bromwich 9. Cameron Smith 10. Nelson Asofa-Solomona 11. Felise Kaufusi 12. Kenneath Bromwich 13. Dale Finucane 14. Brandon Smith 15. Christian Welch 16. Tui Kamikamica 17. Ryan Papenhuyzen 18. Billy Walters 19. Patrick Kaufusi 20. Albert Vete 21. Sandor Earl
HEAD TO HEAD
Astonishingly, the Cowboys haven’t beaten the Storm since the 2015 preliminary final. Of course the Cowboys went on to sensationally win the premiership but since then it’s been all Melbourne, including a grand final win in 2017. The Cowboys did beat the Storm in the trial match earlier this year, with both teams boasting relatively strong lineups. The two teams have both had a lot of success over the last five years but with the Storm having won nine of the last ten, they currently have the head up on the Cowboys.
This week’s key battle is between the two Queensland Origin stars in Cameron Munster and Michael Morgan. Munster has had a great start to the year, currently outright leader and favourite to win the Dally M Medal. Meanwhile Morgan has taken the captaincy role with a stride after solid performances so far this year. He is currently tied second with five try assists and ranked the same in line-break assists. The former Dally M Halfback of the Year had a good game in a disappointing side with two try assists and a good running performance. The 27-year-old needs to lead strong with his actions by utilising his dangerous running game and try to get the Cowboys moving.
Cameron Munster has been electric this year and will no doubt cause a few issues for the Cowboys’ middle and edge defence. He led the way with a man of the match performance against the Bulldogs. Munster made a staggering 150 metres as well as scoring a try, a line-break and 29 tackles. He will be looking to exploit the tired forwards during the latter part of the game as well as setting up tries for those around him. Munster and Morgan have very similar styles of play, both boasting impressive ball-running, playmaking and kicking games, but whoever can manage to break the game will lead their team to victory.
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: Friday, 12th of April 2019
Venue: 1300SMILES Stadium, Townsville
Kick-off: 7:55pm AEST
Referees: Grant Atkins and Gavin Badger
WHO WILL WIN?
This may well be the week the Cowboys find their feet, if they do they could take the undefeated badge off the Storm. I do think the Cowboys will put a strong performance together but the Storm will be too good and grind their way to a very close win.
Storm by two