Monday night footy returns to 1300SMILES Stadium for round 20 as the North Queensland Toyota Cowboys host the Parramatta Eels. It will be a bumper display of rugby league action with three games scheduled. After the Aaron Payne Cup final, the under-20s Cowboys will shoot for an eighth-straight NYC win at 4.45pm against the Eels, followed by NRL Cowboys v Eels at 7pm.
Townsville high school nurseries Ignatius Park and Kirwan will do battle in the Aaron Payne Cup final from 3.05pm on Monday. The traditional schoolboys rivals have a long history of close matches, and while Ignatius Park defeated the Kirwan lads 22-0 in the pool rounds, Kirwan coach Dave Ackers says his team is a different unit this time around. Both schools have a proud history of producing Cowboys players, with Michael Morgan, Anthony Mitchell and Kyle Feldt all Iggy Park alumni, while Cowboys players to have gone to Kirwan include Aaron Payne, Jason Taumalolo, Ray Thompson and Robert Lui.
Our round 21 match against the Raiders at 1300SMILES Stadium promises to be an epic encounter on all fronts – the players from each team will be kitted out in their ISC/Marvel Super Heroes Jerseys, with the Cowboys as "Thor" and the Raiders "the Hulk".
Senior forward Gavin Cooper is the team’s face of the Marvel Super Heroes campaign but admits he has big shoes to fill from last year’s "Thor", Ashton Sims. Still, we reckon the promotional pics and trailer are 'marvellous', as will be the atmosphere on Saturday 1 August at 1300SMILES Stadium.
Two Cowboys are poised to bring up milestones against the Raiders: co-captain Matt Scott is on track to play his 200th Cowboys and NRL game in front of home fans on 1 August, while fullback Lachlan Coote will reach 100 games. Coote joined the Cowboys at the start of the 2014 season, but a knee injury ruled him out of that entire campaign – he's played 15 games for the Cowboys in 2015.
Five-eighth Michael Morgan is revelling in being back in the Cowboys lineup after Origin and an ankle problem limited his club appearances over the past eight weeks. Great news that after a minor procedure on his ankle, the young pivot is playing pain-free and with supreme confidence.
The Cowboys have only one first-grade squad member on the current injured list, with centre Tautau Moga continuing his rehab after major knee surgery. Heading into Monday's match, the Eels have nine top-line players out with injury, with most of them long-term.
The club's favourable position injury-wise is partly good fortune, but mostly down to management by the Cowboys medical, rehab and high performance unit staff. The club has preventative programs in place for athletes susceptible to certain types of injuries, while on any given day, staff are putting players through specific regimes aimed at getting them back to playing as quickly as possible. Kudos to the team behind the team.