North Queensland Toyota Cowboys v South Sydney Rabbitohs
Round 23, 2015 NRL Telstra Premiership
7.45pm, Thursday 13 August, 1300SMILES Stadium
NYC 4.30pm, Thursday 13 August, 1300SMILES Stadium
Referee: Ben Cummins
Assistant referee: Gavin Bagder
Video referee: Ashley Klein and Luke Phillips
Touch judges: Nick Beashel and Chris Sutton
Cowboys: 2nd on ladder (15 wins, 5 losses): 34 points (2 byes)
1. Lachlan Coote, 2. Matthew Wright, 3. Justin O’Neill, 4. Kane Linnett, 5. Antonio Winterstein, 6. Michael Morgan, 7. Johnathan Thurston, 8. Matt Scott, 9. Jake Granville, 10. James Tamou, 11. Gavin Cooper, 12. Ethan Lowe, 13. Jason Taumalolo. Interchange: 14. Rory Kostjasyn, 15. John Asiata, 16. Scott Bolton, 17. Ben Hannant.
Rabbitohs: 4th on ladder (12 wins, 8 losses): 28 points (2 byes)
1. Greg Inglis, 2. Alex Johnston, 3. Dylan Walker, 4. Bryson Goodwin, 5. Aaron Gray, 6. Luke Keary, 7. Adam Reynolds, 8. George Burgess, 9. Isaac Luke, 10. Tim Grant, 11. Kyle Turner, 12. John Sutton, 13. Chris McQueen. Interchange: 14. Jason Clark, 15. Nathan Brown, 16. David Tyrrell, 17. Thomas Burgess, 18. Kirisome Auva'a, 19. Paul Carter, 20. Joel Reddy.
This is the time of year when premiership contenders will want to start flexing their muscle. They don't want to peak too early but they also want to ensure that they can play football at their highest level before September comes.
Both sides will be desperate to atone for their last-start losses, with Cowboys coach Paul Green stating that Thursday cannot come quick enough for his side.
After being left out of what many consider a three-horse premiership race, South Sydney have voiced their thoughts on the matter and will be keen to not just bounce back from a toweling at the hands of Manly, but prove they are in the thick of premiership conversation.
Green welcomes back main man in the middle Matt Scott after the representative bookend was rested against the Sharks last week. His inclusion pushes fellow veteran Ben Hannant back to the bench in an otherwise unchanged lineup.
Souths mentor Michael Maguire gets a huge boost to his playing stocks with the return of young outside back Kirisome Auva'a after a 312-day spell away from the game. The premiership-winning centre has been added to a seven-man bench but is likely to be thrown right into the fire on Thursday. In other team news, Kyle Turner returns from a massive scare against Penrith two weeks ago and will replace the suspended Glenn Stewart, while Nathan Brown replaces Chris Grevsmuhl.
MATCH UPS – Johnathan Thurston v Adam Reynolds
With nine try assists and four line-break assists, statistics don't do justice to what Reynolds offers his side. With the likes of fullback Greg Inglis and crafty hooker Issac Luke, Reynolds does not have to be the star of the show, but where he really comes into his own is late in sets. With Keary still honing his kicking game, Reynolds (365 kicking metres per game) provides that touch of class with the boot – from both long and short range – that the Bunnies so desperately need. For his individual standards, Thurston has had three sub-par weeks in a row. The Dally M favourite will relish the chance to play in front of a national audience and look to add to his 24 try assists and 23 line-break assists.
COWBOYS: Tautau Moga (knee) – indefinite.
RABBITOHS: Cameron McInnes (ankle) - indefinite. Suspended - Glenn Stewart (Rd 24).
*Adapted from Steven Ross, North Queensland Corresponent, NRL.com