Here's a quick look at the Toyota Cowboys’ day one draw at the NRL Auckland Nines at Eden Park tomorrow:
North Queensland Toyota Cowboys: Lachlan Coote, Zac Santo, Antonio Winterstein, Kane Linnett, Javid Bowen, Michael Morgan, Robert Lui, Jason Taumalolo, Ray Thompson, James Tamou, Gavin Cooper, Tariq Sims, Joel Riethmuller, Rory Kostjasyn, Kyle Feldt, Curtis Rona.
GAME 1 v Manly Sea Eagles, 11.50am (Qld time)
Both clubs will know it’s important to get off to a winning start when you only have three games to seal a quarter-final berth.
A slip-up in the opening match would make the last two matches must-win contests.
Expect both coaches to have an eye on how the five pool matches before this one pan out to give them a little bit more of an idea on what tactics work, and what don’t, in the almost unknown world of Nines football.
The Cowboys are sure to get the ball to their power runners James Tamou, Jason Taumalolo and Tariq Sims as much as possible, while Joel Riethmuller, Ray Thompson and Rory Kostjasyn may get through a huge amount of defensive work in a short period of time.
Manly’s squad includes 40-year-old Steve Menzies but the Eagles are without Matt Ballin, Kieran Foran, Jason King, Brenton Lawrence, Jamie Lyon, Steve Matai, Brett Stewart, Glenn Stewart and Anthony Watmough.
Winger Jorge Taufua will be a real handful and skipper Daly Cherry-Evans will undoubtedly be their chief playmaker.
Manly Sea Eagles: Cheyse Blair, Jamie Buhrer, Michael Chee-Kam, Daly Cherry-Evans, Clinton Gutherson, James Hasson, Peta Hiku, Justin Horo, Jack Littlejohn, Steve Menzies, Ligi Sao, Tony Satini, Jesse Sene-Lefao, Tom Symonds, Jorge Taufua, David Williams
GAME 2 v Canberra Raiders, 3.35pm (Qld time)
If this was 13-a-side it would be a preview of the round one clash at 1300SMILES Stadium on 8 March.
However, this really isn’t going to be much of a guide to what will happen in three weeks’ time.
Of the two squads named for the Nines, it’s the Cowboys who probably have more of their key men available with Canberra minus the likes of Terry Campese, Anthony Milford, Josh Papalii, David Shillington, Shaun Fensom, Edrick Lee and Jack Wighton.
The bookies have the Raiders as the outsiders of the tournament at $44 but the Cowboys will still need to keep a close watch on the pace and power of Reece Robinson and Tom Learoyd-Lahrs who loom as major dangers.
Ex-Raiders coach David Furner will be up against his old club for the first time as North Queensland assistant coach.
Canberra Raiders: Jarrod Croker (c), Reece Robinson, Mitch Cornish, Bill Tupou, Matt McIlwrick, Joel Edwards, Glen Buttriss, Tom Learoyd-Lahrs, Jarrad Kennedy, Mark Nicholls, Jake Foster, Lagi Setu, Mitch Cronin, Luke Bateman, Jack Ahearn, Andrew Heffernan.
All matches will be live on Fox Sports.