Panthers statement: Ivan Cleary
9 hours ago | LeagueUnlimited Media
Grand final foes clash in important fixture
Locked in a five-way tie for eighth position, the North Queensland Cowboys will be looking to bounce back against the Wests Tigers on Friday night in Townsville.
Going down to the Sea Eagles, 22-20, last Saturday despite holding a halftime lead, the Cowboys have experienced a season yet to reach great heights, while still remaining competitive with six wins over the first 13 rounds.
Holding a below average record against the joint venture during coach Paul Green's tenure with three wins from seven clashes, the Cowboys have dominated their 2005 grand final foes at home in recent times, winning three of their past four meetings.
Losing representative front rower Jordan McLean (hamstring) and emerging forward Mitchell Dunn (shoulder) for the immediate future, Corey Jensen and Javid Bowen come into the squad, while Kurt Baptiste returns from a one-match ban in place of last week's debutant Reuben Cotter on the bench.
Suffering an embarrassing 28-0 thumping at the hands of the Raiders last Friday, the Tigers will be desperate to arrest a dismal run of form that has seen the club manage one win from their past five matches.
Falling to 11th on the ladder after leading the competition over the opening rounds, coach Michael Maguire will be hoping for a change of fortune in North Queensland having managed one win from five visits, while against Paul Green the former South Sydney premiership-winning mentor has managed a single victory from eight meetings
Naming captain Moses Mbye in the centres with Corey Thompson to start at fullback, Robert Jennings has been recalled in place of Mahe Fonua on the wing. Esan Marsters will play his 50th game for the club after making his first grade debut midway through the 2017 season.
Last meeting: Round 10 2018 - Wests Tigers 20 Cowboys 12
Who to watch: Experiencing a first grade career marred by tragedy, Cowboys prop Francis Molo appears to have turned the corner in 2019. Committing a tackle that subsequently proved fatal in a Queensland Cup match four years ago, the 24-year-old Cook Islands prop spent a number of years in the rugby league wilderness before being granted a lifeline by North Queensland last year. Playing every match off the bench this season, the former Broncos forward has averaged 70 metres in a quarter of game time each week, while snaring his maiden NRL try in the loss to Manly last Saturday. Signed up in Townsville until the end of next season, look for Molo to make an impact in his first meeting against the Wests Tigers since his NRL debut five year ago.
Having been 18th man for New South Wales in the lead up to Origin I, Ryan Matterson will be out to make a final push for a Blues debut on Friday night. Enjoying a career best season at the Tigers after parting ways with the Roosters following last year's grand final triumph, the 24-year-old versatile second rower has been a pillar of consistency with and without the ball under the guidance of Michael Maguire. Averaging over 100 metres and just under 40 tackles each week, look for Matterson to be a focal point of the joint venture's attack as he strives to record victory in his first visit to Townsville as a first grader.
The favourite: With the Tigers managing just one win since May, the Cowboys are expected to come away with an important victory on home soil.
My tip: Despite going down at home last Saturday, expect the Cowboys to temporarily move into the top eight with a win. Cowboys by 12.
1. Michael Morgan 2. Kyle Feldt 3. Enari Tuala 4. Tom Opacic 5. Javid Bowen 19. Jordan Kahu 7. Jake Clifford 8. Josh McGuire 9. Jake Granville 10. Scott Bolton 11. Gavin Cooper 12. Coen Hess 13. Jason Taumalolo 6. John Asiata 14. Kurt Baptiste 15. Shane Wright 17. Francis Molo
1. Corey Thompson 2. Robert Jennings 3. Moses Mbye 4. Esan Marsters 5. David Nofoaluma 6. Benji Marshall 7. Luke Brooks 8. Ben Matulino 9. Robbie Farah 10. Alex Twal 11. Ryan Matterson 12. Michael Chee-Kam 13. Matt Eisenhuth 14. Jacob Liddle 15. Thomas Mikaele 16. Josh Aloiai 17. Chris Lawrence
Referees: Ben Cummins, David Munro; Sideline Officials: Tim Roby, Belinda Sharpe; Video Referees: Steve Chiddy, Beau Scott;