NYC NORTH QUEENSLAND TOYOTA COWBOYS v WESTS TIGERS
5.15pm, Saturday 9 August, 1300SMILES Stadium
Cowboys: 1. Yamba Bowie 2. Samsen O'Neill 3. Lenny Magey 4. Akeripa Tia-Kilifi 5. Conor Carey 6. Ty Carucci 7. Cooper Bambling 8. Viliame Kikau 9. Josh Chudleigh 10. Patrick Kaufusi 11. Coen Hess 12. Corey Jensen 13. Jack Kelleher. Interchange: 14. Delayne Ashby 15. Andrew Niemoeller 16. David Munro 17. Ben Mathiou.
Tigers: 1. Mason Farrell 2. John Tohi 3. Watson Heleta 4. Delouise Hoeter 5. John Ogden 6. Te Maire Martin 7. Eli Levido 8. Dallas Graham 9. Manaia Cherrington (c) 10. Jordan Grant 11. Salesi Funaki 12. Lamar Liolevave 13. Matthew Woods. Interchange 14. Hala Masila 15. Andrew Kazzi 17. Jeremy Marshall-King 18. Hayden Johnson 24. Daniel Rakvin.
RECENT HEAD-TO-HEAD: The Cowboys’ memories of their last meeting with the Tigers in Townsville are not pleasant ones. In round 26 last season, Wests stormed to a 48-14 victory – the Cowboys’ heaviest defeat of the year. Overall, the head-to-head is 9-4 in the Tigers’ favour with the Sydney club winning the last four, including a 38-24 success at Campelltown in round six this year.
FORM GUIDE: With a host of first-year players making a positive impact, North Queensland are shooting for three straight wins after back-to-back successes against Canterbury (away) and Gold Coast (home). The Tigers have gone win-loss-win-loss-win in their five weeks and are coming off a two-point victory against Melbourne in round 21.
HOME AND AWAY: North Queensland have won three from nine at home this year, while the Tigers have been successful in five of their nine away games but have a short turnaround for this one.
KEY STAT: The 12th-placed Cowboys are six points outside the top eight which means their chances of making the finals aren’t gone yet. However, they probably can’t drop another game. The fourth-placed Tigers are currently the highest-placed team they face in the run home.
WHO’S NEW FOR NQ: The Cowboys are unchanged this week.
COWBOY TO WATCH: Andrew Niemoeller was outstanding in defence coming off the interchange bench for NQ against the Titans. His 30 tackles in 49 minutes came without a miss. The back-rower also picked up 109 metres in 10 hit-ups.
TIGER TO WATCH: Centre Watson Heleta scored four tries in a 28-26 loss to the Dragons a fortnight ago and has a season record of 13 tries in 15 matches.
THE COWBOYS’ FINAL SAY – COACH TODD WILSON:
Last week was a “game of two halves” with a dominant first half by our young Cowboys, although we left the door open for a revival by allowing the Titans to score just before the break.
The Titans played some expansive football in the second half which resulted in the game being decided by a late field goal.
Our game review revealed that we missed a number of scoring opportunities that we must learn to identify and take full advantage of.
Once again, our defence was good in patches but we still lack the consistency to defend tough for each of the 40-minute periods.
The boys were physically drained after the oppressive conditions of the early kick off and this week’s preparation will be very light early in the week before we ramp up for the fourth-placed Wests Tigers.
First and foremost we will need to be resilient in defence to control their big men and reduce the opportunities of their fast outside backs.
A focus on our edge defence will ensure we get that part of our game in order.
Our young halves played with more confidence and cohesion on the weekend and if they can continue to control our attack and produce an effective kicking game, it will go a long way to building much-needed pressure on the opposition.
With a boost in our running game through the likes of Bill Kikau and the addition of Patty Kaufusi and the improving Ben Mathiou, we can build an attacking platform for the speed of players such as Samsen O’Neill and Yamba Bowie.
It will be a great challenge for our young men this week, but one that I know they will be up for come Saturday afternoon.