2023 NRL Preview Round 1: Cowboys Vs Raiders

Andrew Pelechaty previews the first Queensland game for 2023 – with North Queensland hosting Canberra.



North Queensland Cowboys Vs Canberra Raiders
Venue: Queensland Country Bank Stadium, Townsville
Date: Saturday March 4, 5:30pm (AEDST) (4:30pm QLD)


Related: NRL Team List Tuesday

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. Coen Hess 12. Jeremiah Nanai 13. Jason Taumalolo 14. Jake Granville 15. Griffin Neame 16. Jamayne Taunoa-Brown 17. James Tamou 18. Brendan Elliot 19. Riley Price 20. Tomas Chester 21. Gehamat Shibasaki 22. Kulikefu Finefeuiaki.

Raiders: 1. Sebastian Kris 2. Nick Cotric 3. Matthew Timoko 4. Harley Smith-Shields 5. Jordan Rapana 6. Jack Wighton 7. Jamal Fogarty 8. Pasami Saulo 9. Danny Levi 10. Joseph Tapine 11. Hudson Young 12. Elliott Whitehead 13. Corey Harawira-Naera 14. Tom Starling 15. Ata Mariota 16. Corey Horsburgh 17. Emre Guler 18. Albert Hopoate 19. Matt Frawley 20. Zac Woolford 21. Trey Mooney 22. Peter Hola.

Referee: Adam Gee.

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While trials usually don’t mean much, the Cowboys had the better of the Pre-Season Challenge. They drew with The Dolphins 22-22 and lost 20-18 to Brisbane. Canberra had a horrible PSC, losing 34-18 to Canterbury-Bankstown and 34-6 to the Wests Tigers (with both the Bulldogs and Tigers taking the trials far more seriously than Canberra). More importantly, they’ve lost Xavier Savage for two months, with Seb Kris playing fullback in the interim. And they’re missing Josh Papali’i for the Cowboys game.

We all know Ricky hates trials, but it’s a concern that The Milk head into the season looking underdone. Traditionally slow starters, they have away games against the Dolphins, Newcastle (and former Raider Adam Elliott), and host Cronulla-Sutherland and Penrith. Another slow start looms if they’re not careful.

While the Cowboys won’t have the surprise factor of 2022, they can still start 2023 with a bang. After the Raiders game, they have Brisbane at Lang Park, the Warriors and Gold Coast in Townsville, and the Bulldogs in Sydney. They could easily be 5-0 heading into Easter.

North Queensland won both games against Canberra last year. They belted the Raiders 26-6 in Townsville (leading 8-6 at half-time) in Round 2, and rallied from 12-0 down to win 18-12 in Canberra on Easter Thursday night.

Canberra will need to start well to have any chance here, and hope they have a big enough buffer when Townsville’s heat and humidity takes its inevitable toll in the second half. If the Cowboys are in front – or at worst not far behind – at halftime, it could get ugly for the visitors.


Cowboys 6, Raiders 4.


Cowboys by 20 points.

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