2021 NRL Round 20 Preview, Broncos Vs Cowboys

Nathan Smith previews the Queensland derby between the Brisbane Broncos and the North Queensland Cowboys. This is what we have to look forward to.

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Venue: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane, Date: Friday, 30th of July, Time: 8:05pm

Brisbane Broncos Team

1. Tesi Niu
2. Corey Oates
3. Kotoni Staggs
4. Herbie Farnworth
5. Jamayne Isaako
6. Tyson Gamble
7. Brodie Croft
8. Keenan Palasia
9. Jake Turpin
10. Payne Haas
11. Alex Glenn
12. Jordan Riki
13. Kobe Hetherington
14. Danny Levi
15. Rhys Kennedy
16. Ethan Bullemor
17. TC Robati
18. Xavier Willison
19. Jesse Arthars
20. Albert Kelly
21. Xavier Coates

Team Changes

IN: Albery Kelly, Danny Levi, Jesse Arthars, Xavier Coates, Xavier Willison
OUT: Cory Paix, Thomas Flegler

North Queensland Cowboys Team

1. Jake Granville
2. Kyle Feldt
3. Murray Taulagi
4. Connelly Lemuelu
5. Kane Bradley
6. Scott Drinkwater
7. Tom Dearden
8. Francis Molo
9. Reece Robson
10. Jordan McLean
11. Shane Wright
12. Mitchell Dunn
13. Jason Taumalolo
14. Tom Gilbert
15. Heilum Luki
16. Coen Hess
17. Ben Hampton
18. Lachlan Burr
19. Daejarn Asi
20. Peter Hola
21. Ben Condon

Team Changes

IN: Ben Hampton, Ben Condon, Peter Hola

Referee: Chris Sutton


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Brisbane Broncos

The Broncos fought the Penrith Panthers in a much improved performance compared to their Round 18 loss to the Wests Tigers. Though they fell 18-12, it was a performance worth respecting and one to build on. There’s no shortage of motivation this week when they take on their Queensland rivals the Cowboys.

Thomas Flegler will miss out after copping a suspension for a high knee shot. As a result, Keenan Palasia moves into the starting side. TC Robati will return to the bench from a leg injury while Danny Levi has been recalled to the bench after playing a handful of games for the Broncos since April.

North Queensland Cowboys

The North Queensland Cowboys game close to pulling off the upset of the year with a 20-16 loss to the Melbourne Storm. Unfortunately, this became their sixth straight loss. Though still a slight chance of making the top eight, it will require them to win every game from this point onwards. There’s no better way to do that than get one up on their ‘big brothers’ from Brisbane.

Todd Payten has stuck with the same team that nearly got the job done against Melbourne. The change is the return of Ben Hampton, which forces Daejarn Asi to the reserves.


It has become one of the feature games in recent years. Most think back to the 2015 grand final in particular, which saw North Queensland somehow pull through and tie up the game in the dying seconds of regular time, and then slot a field goal in extra time to take out the premiership.

The first game of the 2016 was another nail biter, with the Broncos winning by a point; and again the following year, in 2017, they went down to the wire, this time the Cowboys taking it again. In 2018: two games, both four point margins to the victors.

The point? These are rarely blow outs. For fans have been demanding tighter, more enthralling contests, one might find themselves best served to sit down Friday night and enjoy these two teams.

They come into this game off huge performances. The Cowboys were within touching distance of knocking off the first placed Storm, while the Broncos were able to similarly come close to pulling off a huge upset against the Panthers. So they’re both coming into this week with a bit more confidence than usual, given the seasons they’ve had, and will desperate to get one up on the other.

There’s a few big match ups that should make for entertaining viewing. Let’s start with the main event: prop Payne Haas, who has chalked up a massive 1034.6 post contact metres this season, and Jason Taumololo, the captain of the Cowboys, who has been a wrecking ball in the middle of the field for years. The only guarantee is that when one of these men runs at the other, the collision will be of immense seismic force.

You have Kotoni Staggs staging a late season revolution in the Broncos backline. They’ve come to life with his return. In three appearances, he’s achieved 14 tackle breaks, one try and one try assist. Whenever he gets the ball, the Broncos are a chance. It’s been evident his spark has been something they’ve missed.

Tom Dearden will be determined to put in a blinder against his old club, who gave him permission to look elsewhere in their pursuit of Adam Reynolds. Though some say his start to his time at the Cowboys hasn’t been to a standard he would have liked, there’s nothing like the thought of a bit of revenge to offer some motivation.


The overall stats are strongly. in the Broncos’ favor, with them having won 35 of their 54 games against the Cowboys. Their contests at Suncorp are slightly closer, with the Broncos still holding a lead with 11 wins to the Cowboys 6. Points wise, the Broncos have out scored the Cowboys by several hundred, having piled on 1352 across their 54 games, with the Cowboys having scored a smaller 949.


The match should be a tight and exciting encounter, given their history, and the fact they’re both coming off of much improved performances. There will be plenty of points, with both sides having shown they have scrappy defence at times. The Broncos will likely have too much strike power in their backline for the Cowboys, and should come away with a win.

Brisbane by 4.

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