NORTH QUEENSLAND TOYOTA COWBOYS v GOLD COAST TITANS NYC
Date: 4.15pm, Monday 31 March
Venue: Cbus Super Stadium, Robina
Live updates: twitter.com/nthqldcowboys
Referee: Liam Kennedy
Touch judges: Tim Rutherford, Jarrod Cole
Main game: 6.30pm
Cowboys: 1 Alex Grant, 2 Hayden Crowley, 3 Lenny Magey, 4 Samsen O’Neill, 5 Scott Schulte, 6 James Redman, 7 Delayne Ashby, 8 Halvor Harris, 9 Josh Chudleigh, 10 Viliame Kikau, 11 Jack Kelleher (c), 12 Bill Cullen, 13 Andrew Niemoeller. Interchange: 14 Dan Clarke, 15 David Munro, 16 Corey Jensen, 17 Jack Brock, 18 Michael Barclay.
Titans: 1 Jahrome Hughes, 2 Brian Kelly, 3 Jaiden Hawkes, 4 Conner Broadhurst, 5 Zac Spring, 6 Christian Hazzard, 7 Kane Elgey, 8 Oshea Tuiasau, 9 Deacon Fletcher, 10 Mitch Sharp, 11 Caleb Morehu, 12 Jackson Clarke, 13 Parahi Wilson. Interchange: 14 Ethan Price, 15 Perry Ioane, 16 - Jackson Briskey-Luscombe, 17 Jayden Conners, 18 Sam Harrold.
RECENT HEAD-TO-HEAD: There’s been 12 Cowboys v Titans NYC clashes and the NQ boys currently hold an 8-4 edge in the head-to-record. Last year, the Titans stormed home with three tries in the last 13 minutes to beat the Cowboys 34-32 at Robina before Todd Wilson’s team thrashed the Coast 52-14 in the round 23 return match at 1300SMILES Stadium. It was their largest winning margin of the season.
FORM GUIDE: It’s been slim pickings for the two Queensland clubs over the first three rounds. After beating Canberra at home in round one, the Cowboys are coming off back-to-back losses against Brisbane and the NZ Warriors. The Titans are one of only two teams without a win so far, losing to Cronulla (50-22), Wests Tigers (34-4) and Canberra (44-22). They led the Raiders 16-10 at half time last Sunday.
KEY STAT: It’s only early in the year, but it’s clear these two teams need to fix up their defence if they are to challenge for top-eight honours. Heading into round four, they own the two worst defensive records in the under-20s competition. The Cowboys, who let in 50 last Saturday, are now conceding 38 points per match, while the leaky Titans are averaging 42.6 points against this year.
WHO’S NEW FOR NQ: There will be at least one new face for 2014 in the Cowboys’ lineup for this week after interchange forward Kieran Quabba was rested due to recent illness. Either Jack Brock, who made his NYC debut at the end of last season, or Michael Barclay, an 18-year-old front-rower who has yet to play an under-20s match, will come in as his replacement.
WHO’S NEW FOR THE TITANS: Captain and playmaker Kane Elgey, a former Australian Schoolboys representative, has missed the last two matches due to injury but has been named in the No.7 jersey this week. Deacon Fletcher has swapped from halfback to hooker.
MONDAY GAME DAYS: This is the first of back-to-back Monday games for the Cowboys, while the Titans started their season off with a Monday trip to Cronulla. North Queensland’s last Monday game in the 20s was way back in round four last season when they lost to the Warriors in Auckland.
COWBOY TO WATCH: Young forward Bill Cullen was one of only a few Cowboys who could feel content with his own individual performance against the Warriors. In his first run-on start in the under-20s, the former Calliope Roosters forward won coach Todd Wilson’s player of the match award. He has retained his starting role for round four.
THE TITANS’ DANGER: Five-eighth Christian Hazard, who hails from Toowoomba, is a full-time member of the Titans’ NRL squad but is currently playing under-20s football. On the Titans website he says that the Cowboys were his favourite team as a kid and Matthew Bowen was his favourite player. He’ll team up with Elgey for the first time since round 1.
THE COWBOYS’ FINAL SAY – COACH TODD WILSON:
Defence, consistency and discipline are three words that will be applied to this week’s preparation.
A less than adequate defensive performance needs to be rectified immediately if we are to build pressure on the Titans.
We need to trust both our attacking and defensive systems and stick rigidly to those structures for the entire 80 minutes.
Playing a winless team as we did last week can be dangerous if we don’t apply a disciplined approach to the game.
A longer turnaround this week has allowed us to do an extensive review of both team and individual performances and recover both physically and mentally before our round 4 preparations begin.
We need to bounce back this week and nothing short of an improved performance will be acceptable on Monday night.