Elinya Chenery previews the preliminary final between the Cowboys and Eels…
North Queensland Cowboys Vs Parramatta Eels
Venue: Queensland Country Bank Stadium, Townsville
Date: Friday September 23, 7:50pm
MATCHDAY TEAM NEWS
Related: NRL Team List TuesdayEmbed from Getty Images
Cowboys: 1. Scott Drinkwater 2. Kyle Feldt 3. Valentine Holmes 4. Peta Hiku 5. Murray Taulagi 6. Tom Dearden 7. Chad Townsend 8. Jordan McLean 9. Reece Robson 10. Reuben Cotter 11. Tom Gilbert 12. Jeremiah Nanai 13. Jason Taumalolo 14. Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow 15. Luciano Leilua 16. Coen Hess 17. Griffin Neame 18. Jamayne Taunoa-Brown 19. Tomas Chester 20. Jake Granville 21. Brendan Elliot 22. Ben Hampton
Tom Gilbert will once again be a part of the run-on side as he was a fortnight ago in the Cowboys victory against the Sharks. Luciano Leilua therefore reverts to the bench.Embed from Getty Images
Eels: 1. Clinton Gutherson 2. Maika Sivo 3. Viliami Penisini 4. Tom Opacic 5. Waqa Blake 6. Dylan Brown 7. Mitchell Moses 8. Reagan Campbell-Gillard 9. Reed Mahoney 10. Junior Paulo 11. Shaun Lane 12. Isaiah Papali’i 13. Ryan Matterson 14. Bryce Cartwright 15. Jakob Arthur 16. Oregon Kaufusi 17. Marata Niukore 18. Makahesi Makatoa 19. Bailey Simonsson 20. Nathan Brown 21. Ofahiki Ogden 22. Ky Rodwell
There are minimal changes for the Parramatta side, although Brad Arthur has spoken on Wednesday afternoon, revealing that Tom Opacic is unlikely to recover from a hamstring injury, with the final decision to be made closer to the match. Bryce Cartwright slots into the number 14 jumper, pushing Makahesi Makatoa to 18th man.
Referee: Grant Atkins
One game. 80 minutes. That’s all that stands between one of these teams and the glory of competing in a grand final. Will it be the much-improved Cowboys? Or the Eels, who haven’t played in a grand final for more than a decade? Whichever side ends up winning this one, its sure to be a scintillating display of skill, passion and determination come Friday evening.
The home side will come into this momentous clash fresh off the back of enjoying a week off, following their week one finals victory, a 93-minute epic which would’ve taken it all out of them. Playing a finals game in front of the Townsville faithful for the first time in the club’s history at their still newly built stadium, the Cowboys should be heading into this match up full of confidence and energy, ready to put on a show for the locals.
Whilst Parramatta took the long way around, losing to Penrith in the first week of finals and having to survive a sudden death elimination game against the Canberra Raiders last weekend, they came out of their journey no less worse for wear. Managing to put on 40 points and hold their opposition to a singular try seven days ago, the Eels side came out unscathed injury wise and appeared to quell any lingering media rumours surrounding interchange halfback Jake and head coach Brad Arthur, with the latter using his post match-press conference to shut down any talk of issues within the club.
With the Cowboys alone blooding 14 players for their first home final as a North Queensland player, the experience and control of key figures in both sides will massively influence the outcome of this clash. It’s a mouth-watering match up of the young five-eighths, with Parramatta’s Dylan Brown recently being identified as the Melbourne Storms’ ideal replacement if Cameron Munster opts to leave the club and his opposite in Tom Dearden only recently receiving the Cowboys’ 2022 Players Player award. The men alongside Brown and Dearden will also be instrumental, with Chad Townsend and Mitchell Moses bringing experience and direction to the side, balancing out their budding halves partners. Of course, who could forget about Jason Taumalolo. Invigorated from a week of rest following his Herculean effort against the Sharks, notching up a try and 270 run metres, it can be expected that the rampaging lock once again produces a game changing force.Embed from Getty Images
Despite Queensland Country Bank Stadium being operational for three NRL seasons, the Eels are yet to play at the venue. The last three times these teams have met in the previous three seasons, they have played at CommBank Stadium, then at CBus Super Stadium during the Covid-19 hub portion of the 2021 season, and this year they met at TIO Stadium in Darwin. Interestingly (and perhaps of concern), the Cowboys only hold a 50% win rate at QLD Country Bank Stadium.
Eels by 2.
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