The first week of the NRL continues on Friday night at Townsville when last years Grand Finalists North Queensland play hosts to Cronulla.
North Queensland: Ben Hampton; Kyle Feldt, Justin O’Neill, Javid Bowen, Antonio Winterstein; Michael Morgan, Johnathan Thurston; Matt Scott, Jake Granville, Jordan McLean, Gavin Cooper, Ethan Lowe, Jason Taumalolo. Te Maire Martin, Coen Hess, Scott Bolton, John Asiata.
Cronulla: Valentine Holmes; Sosaia Feki, Josh Dugan, Ricky Leutele, Sione Katoa; Matt Moylan, Chad Townsend; Andrew Fifita, Jayden Brailey, Matt Prior, Luke Lewis, Wade Graham, Paul Gallen. Jayson Bukuya, James Segeyaro, Ava Seumanufagai, Joseph Paulo.
There have been 44 games between these two sides, with the Sharks winning 27 games to the Cowboys 17 victories. They last met in the first week of the finals last year where the Cowboys won a thrilling encounter 15-14.
The Cowboys rose above all of the bad luck in 2017 to reach the Grand Final, where they went down heavily to the dominant Melbourne Storm side 34-6. They lost captains Matt Scott in round 2 and Johnathan Thurston in Round 6, both with long term injuries. Thurston reappeared for one match before succumbing to injury again. Young stars Michael Morgan and Jason Taumalolo both stepped up immensely in their absence, carrying the team all the way to the Grand Final.
The Sharks of 2017 were a different outfit, stylisticly, to the one that achieved their maiden title in 2016. In 2017 they went back to their stingy grinding style, which served them well as they sat in the top 8 all season (bar round 1), but were again let down by their poor end of season form, where they scored 2 wins in their last 5 matches before going down to the Cowboys in the first week of the finals, ending their title defence.
Up Front – Two of the best forward packs in the competition will square off here and the battle will last all game, as the bench forwards are all brilliant as well. Expect a tough and close battle here.
Cowboys at home and playing for champion Thurston in his final year, are expected to get the job done.
North Queensland $1.50