It's rep round this weekend and the North Queensland Toyota Cowboys – along with the National Rugby League’s other 15 clubs – are enjoying a well-earned reprieve from the week-to-week grind of the regular season.
NRL Telstra Premiership bye aside, the Cowboys will have no less than 12 players involved in rep matches being played across Queensland and New South Wales, including:
- Friday, 7.50pm: Australia v New Zealand Test – Hunter Stadium, Newcastle
- Saturday, 3.15pm: Junior Kangaroos v Junior Kiwis – Pirtek Stadium, Parramatta
- Saturday, 7.40pm: Samoa v Tonga Pacific Test – Pirtek Stadium, Parramatta
- Sunday, 1.40pm: Queensland Residents v NSW Residents – Langlands Park, Brisbane
- Sunday, 4.10pm: NSW City v NSW Country – Scully Park, Tamworth
Cowboys General Manager – Football Peter Parr said the strong representation from the club in rep round was testament to the players, coaches, support staff and the club in general.
“The players and coaching staff all work hard both in the off-season and during the year to give us the best chance of success, and it’s pleasing to see the players’ hard work, skill and commitment rewarded with rep jerseys at this time of year,” Parr said.
“From the established Aussie and New Zealand Test boys to the players representing their Pacific Island nations, to our players in Residents, Country and the age group teams, we’re proud of their efforts.”
A TESTING TIME
Ahead of Friday's Trans-Tasman Test at Newcastle’s Hunter Stadium, the Cowboys can boast five players selected across both teams.
For the Kangaroos, established players in five-eighth Johnathan Thurston and props Matt Scott and James Tamou will be joined by Test debutante Michael Morgan, who was named on the interchange bench.
Morgan’s selection caps a meteoric rise for the 24-year-old Townsville product, who just over two years ago was searching for a regular spot in the Cowboys’ first-grade side.
A breakout year at fullback in 2014 was followed by a career-best season in 2015 where he and Thurston were the premiership-winning halves at the club.
Morgan also made his State of Origin debut – also off the interchange bench – in that year.
For the Kiwis, in-form lock and one-man wrecking crew Jason Taumalolo will form a key part of New Zealand’s forward pack as he comes up against four Cowboys teammates.
Like the Aussie-Kiwis Test, Saturday's Pacific showdown between Samoa and Tonga will pit Cowboys against one another.
Young Cowboys forward Patrick Kaufusi, with four NRL games under his belt, will line up for Tonga, while veteran winger Antonio Winterstein and ball-playing utility forward John Asiata are in the Samoan team.
This will be the first time Kaufusi and Asiata have played for their respective Pacific nations, while Winterstein represents Samoa for the eighth time, having played seven Tests previously across 2013-14, including the 2013 World Cup.
Just like in the senior Trans-Tasman Test, the Junior Kangaroos v Junior Kiwis clash at Pirtek Stadium on Saturday will pit Cowboy against Cowboy.
The club’s National Youth Competition team captain Coen Hess will represent the young Aussies while hooker Brandon Smith will line up for the Kiwis.
The match will be a curtain raiser to the Pacific Tests.
On Sunday at Tamworth’s Scully Park, NSW City play NSW Country in the traditional Blues State of Origin selection match.
For Country, Cowboys centre Kane Linnett and hooker Rory Kostjasyn will play their first matches in this arena.
Cowboys-contracted fullback Jahrome Hughes – currently playing for the Townsville Blackhawks in the Intrust Super Cup – will line up for the Queensland Residents against the NSW Residents in Sunday's match at Langlands Park from 1.40pm.
AND DON'T FORGET THESE BLOKES
Cowboys staffers physio Steve Sartori, Dr Chris Ball (Kangaroos) and manager Micheal Luck (Junior Kangaroos) are all in camp with their respective teams ahead of the weekend’s matches.