Six things to watch for in the pre-season trial between the North Queensland Toyota Cowboys and Townsville Blackhawks at Jack Manski Oval on Saturday night...
1. The Cowboys’ halves
Tom Humble and Cameron Cullen made a positive impact when they came off the bench in last Saturday night’s trial against Brisbane and this time they’ll be on the field from kick off, trying to show the Cowboys’ coaching staff why they should be in the mix for NRL footy later in the year. Humble is up against the team that signed him from Penrith in the off-season as one of their key acquisitions for their inaugural Intrust Super Cup season.
2 Lachlan Coote’s first game in Townsville
Any minutes the fullback has played for the Cowboys have all been away from the place he’s called home since late in 2013. After turning in a solid hour’s worth of footy in his return from ACL surgery in Mackay, he’ll get another opportunity to impress coach Paul Green in his fight for a spot in North Queensland’s 17 for round one against the Roosters.
3 Coen Hess and Braden Uele
These two young forwards are definitely on the rise with North Queensland, spending part of their pre-season with the NRL squad and then receiving a call-up for the opening NRL trial against the Broncos. Hess also gained some great experience by travelling with the Cowboys to the NRL Auckland Nines. The 18-year-old back-rower is the only NYC squad member in the starting 13 on Saturday, while Uele should get plenty of time off the bench.
4 The Cowboys’ defence
North Queensland conceded just the one try against Brisbane and will be working hard to match, or even better, that feat again this weekend.
5 The ex-Cowboys in the Blackhawks’ lineup
Adding some spice to this contest is the number of former Cowboys who now play, or are on staff, next door for the Blackhawks. The list starts with the coach, Kristian Woolf, who led NQ to the 2011 Toyota Cup grand final, and includes the likes of Michael Parker-Walshe, Wayne Ulugia and Mosese Pangai. They’d love a win against the Cowboys, even in a pre-season trial.
6 Neville Costigan’s debut for Townsville
After more than 150 NRL games, six State of Origins for Queensland and six Tests for Papua New Guinea, Costigan will make his first appearance in the green, black and white of the Blackhawks. Still just 29, he should provide plenty of oomph and leadership for his new club.