The Wests Tigers and North Queensland Cowboys open NRL round 10 at Leichhardt Oval on Thursday night.
TEAM FORM GUIDE
After a surprisingly strong start to the season, the Tigers (5-4) have lost their last three. The rot started in round seven, losing 22-20 to Newcastle at Tamworth’s Scully Park. They lost 24-22 to Parramatta in round eight, before losing 26-4 to the NZ Warriors in Auckland. The Tigers have dropped from the top four to the big cluster of teams from 4th to 10th.
NORTH QUEENSLAND COWBOYS
North Queensland kept themselves in touch with the eight – and away from the bottom four – beating Penrith 26-20 at Bathurst’s Carrington Park last Friday night. Michael Morgan, Ben Hampton, Gavin Cooper gave North Queensland a 20-0 lead before Penrith’s Tyrone Phillips and a Peter Wallace double closed the gap to 20-16. Johnathan Thurston gave North Queensland a 26-16 lead, which was enough. After losing five of their first six, the Cowboys have won two of their last three, separated by the disappointing loss to Canberra in round eight.
Russell Packer returns for the Tigers’ starting side at prop. Jacob Liddle returns on the bench in place of Pita Godinet.
NORTH QUEENSLAND COWBOYS
The Cowboys name an unchanged side. Scott Bolton is named despite indecent assault charges.
Wests and North Queensland played twice 2017; in round six, the struggling Tigers upset North Queensland 26-16 in Townsville. They met against in round 25 at Campbelltown Stadium. North Queensland -winning 22-14. The Tigers beat North Queensland 30-16 in a 2018 trial in Cairns.
Round 10 is Indigenous round, and a big one for North Queensland captain Johnathan Thurston. Proud of his heritage, he’s played six games for the Indigenous All Stars. Thurston’s made 508 running metres, 10 try assists and one try in nine games.
Thurston’s opposite number is Luke Brooks, who’s played all nine games for two tries, six try assists and over 850 running metres.
Wests Tigers and North Queensland have played 32 times since 2000, with the Tigers holding an 18-16 lead.
Wests Tigers: 1 Corey Thompson, 2 David Nofoaluma, 3 Esan Marsters, 4 Kevin Naiqama, 5 Mahe Fonua, 6 Benji Marshall (c), 7 Luke Brooks, 8 Russell Packer, 9 Elijah Taylor, 10 Ben Matulino, 11 Chris Lawrence, 12 Robbie Rochow, 13 Matthew Eisenhuth
Interchange: 14 Alex Twal, 15 Jacob Liddle, 16 Michael Chee-Kam, 17 Sauaso Sue
Reserves: 18 Tim Grant, 19 Chris McQueen, 20 Malakai Watene-Zelezniak, 21 Tyson Gamble
North Queensland Cowboys: 1 Lachlan Coote, 2 Kyle Feldt, 3 Justin O’Neill, 4 Ben Hampton, 5 Antonio Winterstein, 6 Michael Morgan, 7 Johnathan Thurston (c), 8 Matthew Scott (c), 9 Jake Granville, 10 Scott Bolton, 11 Gavin Cooper, 12 Coen Hess, 13 Jason Taumalolo
Reserves: 18 Francis Molo, 19 Jake Clifford, 20 Javid Bowen, 21 Sam Hoare
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: Thursday 10th May
Venue: Leichhardt Oval
WHO WILL WIN?
One of the toughest games to predict. While Wests are struggling, North Queensland are fresh off a win in Sydney, but is it a momentary uptick or a sign of a form surge? Will back-to-back games in NSW hurt them? The Tigers will enjoy being back at Leichhardt, and that might be enough in a close one.
Wests Tigers by two.