The National Rugby League recall of young back-row firebrand Coen Hess has prompted a forwards reshuffle in Aaron Payne’s under-20s squad as the team looks to continue their winning ways in Wollongong this weekend.
Searching for a fifth straight National Youth Competition win, Payne’s young charges will go into Saturday’s match against the eighth-placed Dragons having accumulated 82 points in their past two outings.
Payne will be looking for more of that same attacking punch this weekend, while continued improvement in defence will also be a goal.
The team, though, will be without forward leader and NYC Cowboys captain Hess, who has been recalled to NRL duties after making his top-flight debut in Round 24 last year against the Warriors.
That leadership void will be filled by dogged halfback Cooper Bambling, who will captain the side as it strives to break back into the NYC top two.
The young Cowboys are in third place on the ladder with eight wins from 11 games, half a win behind Wests Tigers.
Hess’s edge back-row spot will be taken by Ross Bella, who shifts from the middle of the park.
Taha Tutavake shifts from the interchange bench to the starting front row, with 18-year-old workhorse Corey Horsburgh set to make his NYC debut off the interchange bench.
North Queensland Toyota Cowboys NYC v St George Illawarra Dragons NYC
3.10pm, Saturday 28 May, WIN Stadium
1. Kalyn Ponga
2. Gideon Gela-Mosby
3. Bacho Salam
4. Nathan Traill
5. Marcus Jensen
6. Ty Carucci
7. Cooper Bambling (c)
8. Darryn Schonig
9. Brandon Smith
10. Tahanui Tutavake
11. Ross Bella
12. Hiale Roycroft
13. Jordan Kenworthy
14. Trey Kemp
15. Corey Horsburgh
16. Emry Pere
17. Nick Lui Toso
Coach: Aaron Payne