NORTH QUEENSLAND TOYOTA COWBOYS v CANBERRA RAIDERS – NYC
Date: 5.45pm, Saturday 8 March
Venue: 1300SMILES Stadium
Live updates: twitter.com/nthqldcowboys
Referee: Tim Rutherford
Touch judges: Belinda Sleeman, Chris Nitsopoulos
Main game: 8pm
COWBOYS: 1 Alex Grant, 2 Hayden Crowley, 3 Lenny Magey, 4 Samsen O’Neill, 5 Rainer Power, 6 James Redman, 7 Delayne Ashby, 8 Patrick Kaufusi, 9 Josh Chudleigh, 10 David Munro, 11 Jack Kelleher (c), 12 Corey Jensen, 13 Andrew Niemoeller. Interchange: 14 Dan Clarke, 15 Kieran Quabba, 16 Bill Cullen, 17 Viliame Kikau, 18 Halvor Harris, 19 Scott Schulte.
RAIDERS: 1. Ricky Garard 2. Leu Saipani 3. Brenko Lee 4. Jack Creith 5. Lachlan Hurst 6. Matt Frawley 7. Andrew Heffernan 8. Mitchell Shaw 9. Trent Schubach 10. Mitchell Barnett 11. Patrick Mago 12. Jared McIlwrick 13. Luke Bateman. Interchange: 14. Josh Baker 15. Jules Webley 16. Brett Solomon 17. Thoren Fidow-Kele 18. Dylan McGrath.
TURNING BACK THE CLOCK: The Cowboys stormed home last year with a seven-game winning streak, giving Todd Wilson’s squad a finals chance before two losses to end the season left them in 10th place overall. Meanwhile, the Raiders finished as the minor premiers before being eliminated in the preliminary final by Penrith.
RECENT HEAD-TO-HEAD: There were two narrow wins for Canberra last season – 18-14 in Townsville and 34-32 in Canberra where a late conversion attempt that hit the post cost the underdog Cowboys a draw.
FORM GUIDE: The Cowboys’ final trial a fortnight ago was washed out, but prior to that they downed the Mackay Cutters’ Intrust Super Cup team and the Herbert River Crushers’ A-grade squad after starting off with a narrow loss to Northern Pride. This is their first game against NYC opposition this year. Meanwhile, the Raiders lost 28-26 to Melbourne and 32-26 against Newcastle.
KEY STAT: These two teams ended up with amazingly similar defensive records last year, with the Raiders conceding 614 points and the Cowboys 615. However, in attack, Canberra scored a massive 765 points to NQ’s 582.
WHO’S NEW FOR NQ: The Cowboys will have four debutants in their starting team – winger Rainer Power, halves James Redman and Delayne Ashby and hooker Josh Chudleigh. There are another three potential first gamers on the bench – Bill Cullen, Viliame Kikau and Scott Schulte.
CAPTAIN COWBOY: Townsville’s Jack Kelleher, in his third year of under-20s footy, will run out as the Cowboys’ NYC captain for the first time, with Corey Jensen as his deputy. “It was definitely an honour to be chosen and I’m determined that we will have a big year,” Kelleher said.
COWBOY TO WATCH: Big “Billy” Kikau threatens to be a real crowd favourite thanks to his speed and tackle busting abilities which are unmatched in the North Queensland squad. He’s still pretty raw but could develop into a real weapon as the year progresses.
OUR OPPONENTS THIS WEEK: Several of the playmaking positions within the Raiders team were up for grabs after Jack Ahearn and Mitch Cornish progressed through to the NRL squad. This has enabled the likes of Ricky Garard, Matt Frawley and Andrew Heffernan to take over the reins of the side after their impressive efforts in the pre-season and in the trials.
THE RAIDERS’ DANGER: Queensland Junior Origin rep Brenko Lee will be particularly fired up for a big performance after he was marginally ousted by Matt Allwood for the left centre position in the NRL lineup. He was named in last year’s NYC Team of the Year.
THE FINAL SAY – COWBOYS COACH TODD WILSON
The pre-season is over and it’s time for our Cowboys round 1 NYC team to make the most of their opportunity.
With a blend of NYC experience and several debutants, it’s a new-look side that will be aiming to get the season off to a positive start at home.
We’ve had a strong emphasis on defensive structures and attitude over the past few months and this will be tested against the Raiders’ attacking weapons come Saturday.
With a focus around ball security and field position, it will be up to our playmakers to build pressure through a smart and effective kicking game.
Our boys are keen to get the season underway and the first game is guaranteed to provide plenty of rugby league entertainment.
Looking forward to seeing our members and fans there!