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Cowboys v Panthers PREVIEW

Cooper,G 170318700

North Queensland Toyota Cowboys warhorse back-rower Gavin Cooper joins an elite group of players when he lines up for his 250th National Rugby League game against the Penrith Panthers today.

Cooper, 31, will reach the milestone moment in front of the Cowboys faithful at 1300SMILES Stadium, the proud Queenslander having played the bulk of his career at the Cowboys.

“Gavin has been a wonderful player for us over many seasons and is playing some of his best football this season,” said Cowboys General Manager – Football Peter Parr.

“This is a fantastic milestone, much deserved and a true testament to Gavin’s talent and durability.”

Cooper has played 173 games for the Cowboys (2006, 2011-present), 36 games for the Titans (2007-08) and 40 games for the Titans (2009-10), and has two State of Origin games to his credit.

He recently signed a new deal at the club to the end of the 2019 season.

SATURDAY ARVO’S ALL RIGHT

Members and fans will be treated to the rare occasion of afternoon footy this round, with today's game kicking off at 3pm.

The Cowboys have already flagged one lineup change with Kyle Laybutt to come into the halfback’s role after Johnathan Thurston was this week ruled out for the rest of the season through injury.

Laybutt made his debut last weekend against the Storm and will get first crack at cementing that halves spot alongside Michael Morgan, following the mid-season arrival to the club of exciting ex-Penrith youngster Te Maire Martin.

RETURNING

Apart from Thurston, the remaining Cowboys’ Origin contingent will line up against the Panthers, with Cooper joined by Morgan and Hess.

OLD FRIENDS, NEW FOES

The Panthers’ arrival at 1300SMILES Stadium will see the return of a couple of familiar faces to the venue.

Cowboys 2015 premiership winner James Tamou moved to the foot of the Blue Mountains at the start of 2017, while former Under-20s Cowboys star Viliame Kikau is in his second year at the club in the NRL squad.

Tamou represented City this year, the former Origin and Test prop having played in 13 games this season.

Fijian international Kikau has played eight NRL games – all in 2017 – and scored on debut in Round 2 versus Wests Tigers.

HEAD TO HEAD

Played: 34 – Penrith won 18, North Queensland won 16

Played in Townsville: Penrith won 9, North Queensland won 7

Biggest head-to-head wins: North Queensland def Penrith 36-4, 2013; Penrith def North Queensland 56-6, 2004