Joshua Knox previews the North Queensland Cowboys hosting the ladder leading Melbourne Storm on Friday night. This is what we have to look forward to.Embed from Getty Images
Venue: Queensland Country Bank Stadium, Townsville, Date: Friday July 23, Time: 7:55pm
IN: Heilum Luki, Kane Bradley, Lachlan Burr, Michael Bell
OUT: Javid Bowen
IN: Christian Welch, Cooper Johns, Josh Addo-Carr, Nelson Asofa-Solomona, Ryan Papenhuyzen
OUT: George Jennings, Felise Kaufusi, Dale Finucane, Cameron Munster
Referee: Matt Cecchin
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
The Cowboys come into this round 19 clash needing a win after suffering a 34-18 defeat at the hands of the Sydney Roosters last time out. They have lost their last five matches after sitting inside the top eight for the first half of the season. Their season is now on life support and they face their toughest challenge yet in the reigning premiers, the Melbourne Storm. A loss this weekend could spell the end for their season and they’ll have to do it without their star Valentine Holmes who remains out following a shoulder injury suffered in the last State of Origin match.
The Cowboys have lost Javid Bowen to an ACL injury which gifts a debut to young winger Kane Bradley, who will be eager to impress against the competitions best. The rest of the side that went down to the Roosters will line up against the Storm.
Well, where do we start with the Melbourne Storm? The team is flying high and currently sitting alone at the top of the table. The Storm last tasted defeat in round 3 against the Penrith Panthers and since have been unstoppable. They have scored a ridiculous 632 points through the opening 17 rounds at an average of 37 points per game. The part that is astounding is the fact that they have had to play the majority of the season away from home outside Victoria.
Coach Craig Bellamy has the luxury to rest Cameron Munster, Felise Kaufusi and Dale Finucane while George Jennings misses out due to injury. Cooper Johns replaces Munster in the halves, while Chris Lewis comes into the starting side for Kaufusi. They also welcome back origin representative Josh Addo-Carr who sat out the last start win over the Newcastle Knights 48-4. The most exciting inclusion however is the return of superstar Ryan Papenhuyzen who joins the interchange in what shapes to be his first match since a sickening concussion in round 10.
The resting of stars by Craig Bellamy and the Melbourne Storm makes this game a lot closer than it would rather be. But the rested and injured stars are replaced by players that are just as good. The return of Addo-Carr, Papenhuyzen, Welch and Asofa-Solomona to replace Munster, Jennings, Kaufusi and Finucane sees the Storm lose nothing.
The addition of Ryan Papenhuyzen on the interchange is another element for the Cowboys to worry about and it is yet to be seen where he will line up when he comes onto the field. He was arguably the form player of the competition to start the season but two concussions since has halted his season. Normally losing a star would be tough to take but enter Nicho Hynes who has filled in seamlessly and has given Bellamy a welcome headache entering the crunch time of the season.
The Cowboys defence will be the key to victory as the Storm are the best attacking team in the competition and the Cowboys have the second worst defensive record in the competition having conceded 527 points. If the Cowboys can’t muscle up through the middle, this could become a cricket score very quickly. Tom Dearden needs to stand up and produce what he is capable of to get the Cowboys within striking distance.
The sides will meet for the first time this season, in 2020 the Storm took care of the Cowboys 36-20. Josh Addo-Carr is coming off a hat trick in this last match in Storm colours and expect him to continue his pursuit of Rabbitohs flyer Alex Johnston in the race for top try-scorer.
The Cowboys need to get back to winning ways but unfortunately it won’t be this weekend. The Storm will prove far too strong despite the trip to North Queensland.
Storm by 36.
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