NORTH QUEENSLAND COWBOYS v MELBOURNE STORM
Saturday, 26 September, 7.40pm
AAMI Park
Referee
: Matt Cecchin
Assistant referee
: Ben Cummins
Video referees
: Bernard Sutton and Ben Galea
Touch judges
: Steve Carrall and Nick Beashal

TEAMS

COWBOYS:  1. Lachlan Coote, 2. Kyle Feldt, 3. Justin O’Neill, 4. Kane Linnett, 5. Antonio Winterstein, 6. Michael Morgan, 7. Johnathan Thurston (c), 8. Matt Scott (c), 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, 19. Ray Thompson.

STORM: 1. Cameron Munster, 2. Marika Koroibete, 3. Will Chambers,  4. Kurt Mann, 5. Matt Duffie, 6. Blake Green, 7. Cooper Cronk, 8. Jesse Bromwich, 9. Cameron Smith (c), 10. Tim Glasby, 11. Kevin Proctor, 12. Tohu Harris, 13. Ryan Hinchcliffe. Interchange: 14. Kenny Bromwich, 15. Dale Finucane, 16. Nelson Asofa-Solomona, 17. Jordan McLean, 18. Christian Welch, 19. Dayne Weston.

MATCH FACTS

  • The Storm hold the overall head-to-head edge over the Cowboys 20-9. At AAMI Park, Melbourne lead 2-1.
  • In their past eight matches, the teams have won four matches apiece.
  • In matches this year, the Cowboys triumph 18-17 in the dying seconds to kickstart a club-record 11-game winning streak. The Storm won 14-6 in round 25 at AAMI Park.
  • Biggest head-to-head wins: the Storm have twice beaten the Cowboys 58-12 – once in Townsville in 2007 and once in Melbourne three years later. The Cowboys triumphed over the Storm 40-8 in 2006 in 2006.
  • Cowboys players Justin O’Neill and Rory Kostjasyn are former Storm players. O’Neill won a premiership with the Storm in 2012. Kostjasyn was the 18th man in that game. Dayne Weston, named for the Storm in the extended squad in the No.19 jersey, is a former Cowboys player.
  • In their two finals matches to date, the Cowboys have completed 39 sets at 78%. In their one finals match, the Storm have completed 29 sets at 86%.
  • Johnathan Thurston is the 2015 finals leader for line-break assist, with three.
  • Thurston has made 24 kicks in play over the two finals matches.
  • Cowboys second-rower Ethan Lowe has run 20 decoys in the finals, seven more than the next best, teammate Matt Scott (12).
  • Fullback Lachlan Coote (35) and Thurston (30) lead the finals for support run.
  • Coote has returned general play kicks 16 times in the finals.
  • Michael Morgan and Antonio Winterstein have three and two finals series line breaks respectively.
  • Winterstein has also made three finals handling errors, the same amount as Jack Bird (Sharks) and Tim Lafai (Bulldogs).

MATCH-UPS – The No.7s                

In this match-up of champion halfbacks, we have arguably one of the great all-time players of the game pitted against the master tactician and game controllers. Johnathan Thurston, the Cowboys maestro all but guaranteed a record fourth Dally M medal, has had a stellar year by any measure. He is a proven big stage performer whose game sense, commitment and competitiveness is beyond compare. In Cronk, the Storm have the consummate professional, whose attention to detail and flawless execution have won his team many a game. How these two masters of the big occasion control their side and the tempo of the game will go a long way to determining the outcome of this one.

FINAL WORD

Johnathan Thurston (Cowboys co-captain):  “It was a step in the right direction last week and we need to continue that momentum.”

Craig Bellamy: “We had some tough games (heading into to this match) … so we’ve lightened the load this week”

CASUALTY WARD

COWBOYS: Tautau Moga (knee); Hezron Murgha (knee) - indefinite

STORM: Billy Slater (shoulder) – season