NORTH QUEENSLAND TOYOTA COWBOYS v SYDNEY ROOSTERS
Round 1, 2015 NRL Telstra Premiership
8pm, Saturday 7 March, 1300SMILES Stadium

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Referee
: Jared Maxwell, Chris Sutton
Sideline officials: Jeff Younis, Adam Reid
Video referees: Steve Chiddy, Luke Phillips
Broadcast: Fox Sports 1, 4TOFM, NRL Digital Pass
Times: Gates open 5.30pm | NYC Cowboys v Roosters 5.45pm

COWBOYS: 1 Michael Morgan, 2 Justin O’Neill, 3 Matthew Wright, 4 Kane Linnett, 5 Antonio Winterstein, 6 Robert Lui, 7 Johnathan Thurston, 8 Matt Scott, 9 Rory Kostjasyn, 10 Ben Hannant, 11 Gavin Cooper, 12 Ethan Lowe, 13 Jason Taumalolo. Interchange: 14 Jake Granville, 15 Glenn Hall, 16 Scott Bolton, 17 James Tamou, 18 Kelepi Tanginoa, 19 Ray Thompson.

ROOSTERS: 1 Roger Tuivasa-Scheck, 2 Daniel Tupou, 3 Michael Jennings, 4 Blake Ferguson, 5 Shaun Kenny-Dowell, 6 James Maloney, 7 Mitchell Pearce, 8 Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, 9 Matt McIlwrick, 10 Sam Moa, 11 Boyd Cordner, 12 Aidan Guerra, 13 Isaac Liu. Interchange: 14 Mitch Aubusson, 15 Dylan Nappa, 16 Kane Evans, 17 Sio Siua Taukeiaho, 18 Martin Kennedy, 19 Nene Macdonald.

CASUALTY WARD

Cowboys: Nil
Roosters: Jake Friend (shoulder)

MATCH FACTS

  • North Queensland come into round one with a solid pre-season behind them, including victories in all three of their trial games – most importantly, coach Paul Green has no injury concerns.
  • The Roosters have named three debutants in their 19-man squad for the season opener: Blake Ferguson, Matt McIlwrick, Siosiua Taukeiaho.
  • The Cowboys will be going for their 12th straight win at 1300SMILES Stadium.
  • In their last match-up, the 2014 semi-final, the Cowboys fought back from 30-0 down to level before eventually going down 31-30.

MATCH UPS

Johnathan Thurston v Mitchell Pearce

There is no denying Thurston is the lynchpin for the Cowboys' lethal attacking outfit, topping the NRL for try assists last season with 31. He is a three-time Dally M medallist, only one of two. With an uninterrupted pre-season behind him, JT is set for a cracking start to 2015.

Pearce was in career-best form at the back-end of last season with his running game a real danger to the defence. He has been handed co-captaincy of the Chooks this season and will be keen to show he's the man for the job and take his game to another level.

COACHES VIEW

Cowboys coach Paul Green: “We have the luxury this week, and hopefully for a few more weeks, of having everyone fit – it's a good way to start the season at least anyway. Expectation is not something new to this squad, any team that has Johnathan Thurston’s name on the team list expect high things of it. I’ve said all along that just because those guys are in the team, unless we're all doing our job it won’t really matter for much.”

Roosters assistant coach Steve McNamara: “They have got a very strong squad, and it’s a challenge we are really looking forward to, up against one of the best teams on their ground.”